By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — The annual HOWL! Festival kicks off Friday in Tompkins Square Park, paying tribute to beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who would have turned 85 the same day.
The arts and cultural event, which opens with a reading of Ginsberg's groundbreaking 1956 poem for which the festival is named, features a host free events in and around the park through Sunday.
In addition to the reading and other performances, the festival includes a two-day "Art Around the Park" exhibit featuring real-time work from local artists.
There will also be a live mixtape showcase called "Hip-Hop HOWL!," a children's carnival, and a lavish stage production paying tribute to the East Village as the birthplace of drag.
"I think our biggest interest is to keep the arts alive for people of all ages," said festival board member Jane Friedman, explaining that the carnival was added this year to encourage participation from people of all ages.
"That's been the engine of the culture of the East Village since it became the East Village."
Readers of Ginsberg's seminal work "Howl!" Friday include fellow poets Ed Sanders, Hettie Jones and Bob Holman, among others.
The carnival on Saturday and Sunday will feature everything from arts and crafts and fairway attractions to Irish step dancing and drum instruction.
Friedman said that the goal of this year's carnival is to offer more instructive events, following the success of similar efforts by the HOWL! organization at the New Museum's recent Festival of Ideas for the New City.
"Despite economic brackets, if we can give people a chance to express themselves and do it at HOWL!," she said, "that's a great thing to do."
All events are free and open to the public, starting with the reading of Ginsberg's "Howl" at 5 p.m. Friday.
Visit www.howlfestival.com for more information.