Mariposa Folk Festival, Innis Lake, Caledon, Toronto 1967

Mariposa Folk Festival, Innis Lake, Caledon, Toronto 1967
Authored By John Nicholson

Mariposa Folk Festival is a Canadian music festival founded in 1961 in Orillia, Ontario. Ruth Jones, her husband Dr. Crawford Jones, brother David Major and Pete McGarvey organized the first Mariposa Folk Festival in August 1961. 

It was held in Orillia for three years before being banned because of disturbances by festival-goers. I wonder how rowdy those folkies really were? I can’t imagine a bunch of weird beards kicking ass, can you?

The inaugural event, covered by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, featured all Canadian performers. The festival grew in popularity, size and rowdiness until the popularity of the 1963 festival with over 8,000 advance tickets sold and the lack of sufficient security, led to a backlash from town locals. There are always locals and they’re always issuing a backlash, have you noticed that?

The city of Orillia secured a court injunction to prevent the festival from continuing in the town limits. Yeah, that’ll show those folkie revolutionaries! 

The first festival held in the Toronto area, in 1964, was at Maple Leaf Stadium. The subsequent three festivals were held at Innis Lake in Caledon, northwest of the city. In the 1970s it was held on the Toronto Islands before shifting to Harbourfront (Toronto) and Bathurst Street and later Molson Park in Barrie. 

In a simple twist of fate, in 2000, the Mariposa Folk Festival was invited back to Orillia by city councilors Tim Lauer and Don Evans. The festival continues to be held in Orillia. As well as folk music, the festival highlights other aspects of folk culture including dance, crafts, storytelling.

Funny how that which was seen as rowdy and dangerous eventually became respectable. 

1967 was significant because it marked the blending of folk and rock and also documented the beginning of the singer-songwriter movement which would grow into such a big commercial thing in the 1970s.

Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Richie Havens and Tom Rush were amongst the acts that played on stages as workshops went on around them. Neither had made their debut albums yet but both were on the verge of greatness.

There were blues from Buddy Guy, Arthur Big Boy Crudup and Reverend Gary Davies, again, acts that would crossover into the growing rock culture, playing the Fillmore’s to thousands of adoring hippies.

It’s great that Mariposa is still an annual event and is such a positive and encouraging place to develop musical talent and encourage kids to perform.

This fantastic photo is sometimes credited to being taken at Newport Folk Festival but I think it was actually Mariposa. So young. Such a long time ago. Who knew what lay ahead?!

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