On June 29,1997, promoters Tom and Kathleen Hanway presented the St. Marks Bluegrass Festival, featuring eleven bluegrass bands. The idea came from Roger Davis, bartender at Coney Island High, an alternative music club in the East Village. Hardcore, rock’n’roll and bluegrass fans mixed and partied in the same room while listening to local, hard-driving bluegrass.
It was a great party, enjoyed by all, but Tom and Kathleen, like many other fledgling bluegrass promoters, took a financial loss. Then Coney Island High closed in December. Still, Tom and Kathleen wanted to try again in 1998. The festival was renamed "Big Apple Bluegrass®." Club owner Tom O’Byrne welcomed the festival to The Baggot Inn in Greenwich Village, New York’s traditional nexus for artists, folkies, dreamers and inveterate bluegrassers. The Baggot Inn has hosted the festival ever since.
In 2000 the Saturday shows took place at the Westbeth Theater in the West Village; then the festival returned to its home base at the Baggot on Sundays.
In 2001 the Big Apple Bluegrass & Folk Festival® expanded to three days and was held again at the Baggot, at 82 West Third Street between Thompson & Sullivan, in the heart of the Village.
Plans for 2002 include two stages on separate levels; local, regional and national acts; area artist showcases; instrument, band and vocal workshops; a radio simulcast of a top bluegrass act; upstairs jamming arena with snacks, merchandise and full bar; and special, weekend, and seniors discounts.
Every Wednesday at 9 PM, Tom "Banjo" Hanway and Sheriff Uncle Bob co-host the Big Apple Bluegrass Society (BABS) jam at the Baggot, a weekly meeting place for BABS players, friends and fans. With the support of Steve Duggan, BABS also holds a session every Sunday, 4-7 PM at Paddy Reilly's Music Bar, 519 Second Ave. at 29th Street.
Tom & Kathleen Hanway wish to thank Steve Duggan and Tom O'Byrne for their steady support of bluegrass and roots music in New York City.