Pat Blythe – The Mariposa experience…..

…….and WE’RE BACK!!!!! Summer is half over. That’s the sad news. We still have the other 50% of summer to experience. That’s the great news. I’ve been spending more time on the road this year photographing shows and festivals and visiting family more frequently.

In The Summertime – Mungo Jerry

I am supremely overwhelmed with all the music my lens and ears have been capturing over the past six weeks. So much so I need another month just to catalogue and edit. I never thought I’d be this backlogged. My wee house has become simply a landing pad of sorts. Enough time to respond to parched plants, toss the sour milk and whatever else decided to make a home in my fridge, do a little laundry and I’m out the door again. AirBnb bookings are also picking up and my telecom work (you know the “other” job that actually pays the bills) is starting to get busy. This house of cards can’t hold up much more.

Mariposa….58 festivals and counting…..

Guess where I went a few weeks ago. Truth be told I am a bit sheeeeeepish to admit this is my first Mariposa Folk Festival. Yes……I was a Mariposa virgin. Fifty-seven festivals have come and gone and this my first time. A home run with number 58. My girlfriend Sandy B. had been in my ear about applying for media accreditation….so I did….and I was approved!!! OMG (as they say). I’m so excited!!! So with everything we might possibly need (be prepared is our motto) stowed safely in the back in the of the vehicle, Sandy and I traversed north to Orilla and Tudhope Park.

What a weekend!!!! Gorgeous weather, incredible music, fantastic people, brilliant volunteers and best of all, it’s a family event. It was wonderful to see so many little ones and pre-teens enjoying the festival and especially the music. There was literally something for everyone. From hula hoops, to face painting, interactive shows, storytelling, music workshops and of course the requisite vendors including one providing hairwraps  (The Magpie Bead Co. and yes I got a purple one) and beautiful designer hats.

Hats, hats and more hats…..


Even the little ones joined in…..

Sandy and I arrived Friday afternoon, checked in to our hotel and then headed over to the park to sign in. Don’t we feel special….VIP parking too! For the next five hours I was shooting the main stage and wandering around the park to get my bearings. For about twelve hours each day, Saturday and Sunday, it was non-stop dashing about from stage to stage with meal breaks and one zone-out-on-a-bench period. I covered eight out of ten stages, the VIP tent, the Artisan’s Village, Food Trail and the Folk Play Area. I met some incredible people and couldn’t stop smiling while photographing (on and off stage) and listening to artists such as A.J. Croce, Buffy Saint Marie, Gordon Lightfoot (who was there with his lovely wife Kim), Walk Off The Earth, Bahama, Valdy, Nick Lowe & The Straightjackets, The Matchedash Parish, Iskwé, Molly Tuttle, the induction of Bonnie Dobson’s song Morning Dew into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (Dobson also performed the song), guitarist Danny Michel (with drummer/percussionist Davide DiRenzo), Alan Doyle, Big Brass Band…..and so, so many more….. It was impossible to capture everything and everyone but damn……I tried…..I really did.

Tudhope Park…..

Located on the shores of Lake Couchiching, the 65-acre J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park is the ideal home for Mariposa. Trees for shade, water to splash about in, peaceful spots to cop a few zees or simply relax while you enjoy a respite away from the madding crowd. Perfectly situated for easy access by visitors and Orillia residents the park hosts a number of events throughout the year and is home to baseball, slo-pitch and the popular Moose Beach.

James Brockett Tudhope was a local manufacturer and politician, serving in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1902 and again in 1905 and 1908 for the provincial riding of Simcoe East. He was elected to the  House of Commons of Canada  in 1917. The land was later donated by the Tudhope family to the City of Orillia.

Some quiet times

A calming view….recharging batteries….

I love the festival chair etiquette…. blankets at the front of the stage followed by low chairs behind them with the high-backed chairs behind them. The amazing thing is, everyone follows the “chair etiquette”. Not only that, you can position your sitting accoutrement and walk away (like a reserve sign), return hours later and it’s still there, undisturbed. One thing I would highly recommend is earplugs or headphones for the wee ones. I saw far too many perched in front of speakers without any ear protection. Maybe that’s something a sponsor could provide next year?

Everyone follows the chair etiquette

Mariposa began their “greening” initiatives in 2009 and by 2015 had reached an 88% landfill diversion rate. For this Mariposa received the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario’s Award for Excellence  for Sustainable Tourism. From their website, Everything the food and beverage vendors at Mariposa serve their food on is 100% compostable. That includes the cups and glasses, bowls, plates, and utensils. Of course, all of the food scraps are compostable, as well! Mariposa is also water bottle free! Every year, Mariposa Folk Festival eliminates more than 12,000 plastic water bottles from the recycling stream by providing a hydration station so you can have access to free water.” You can bring your own reusable water bottle or purchase one on site.

A little Mariposa history…..from my column last year…..

Conceived by Ruth Jones, a 33-year-old mom of four living in the small quite town of Orillia, the first festival was a two-day affair, (future festivals ran for one and three days) held in Oval Park in Orillia. “We went to hear John Fisher, he was known as Mr. Canada. One of the things he said was that every small community should have a hook to hang tourism on. I put that together with the fact that I loved to go to folk festivals in Toronto, and I thought maybe Orillia needs something to wake it up.”

Mariposa Trailer

It was purely an all-Canadian event featuring artists O.J. Abbott, Jean Carignan and Alan Mills, the Travellers, Jacques Labrecque and Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker. A non-profit, volunteer organization, the festival was called Mariposa, a pseudonym used by Stephen Leacock for the town of  Orillia in his book, Sunshine Sketches of A Little Town. Unfortunately, three years later the festival was relocated to Maple Leaf Stadium in Toronto due to unruly festival attendees who decided the party was more important than the music.

Early Morning Rain – Ian & Sylvia

For several years the festival bounced around various locations — Maple Leaf Stadium in Toronto in 1964, Innis Lake 1965-7, Centre Island (part of the Toronto Islands) 1968-79, discontinued in 1980, revived in 1982 at Harbourfront and by 1984 was back again in the Orillia area at Barrie’s Molson Park. 1991 saw it back in Toronto at Ontario Place as The Festival of Roots Music, then on to Olympic Island (again part of the Toronto Islands) from 1993-5 and by now mired in debt. 1996 saw it split into two festivals, one in Bracebridge and the other in Cobourg. Mariposa in Muskoka was now a single-day event by 1997 and by 1999 had diminished to a free event in the Parkdale area of Toronto. Mariposa needed a shake-up. In 2000 it was back in Orillia as a three-day event thanks to two city councillors Tim Lauer and Don Evans and local musician Gord Ball.

Some of the hundreds (if not thousands) of artists who have graced her stages in include a who’s who of Canadian talent and artists from around the world. Rita McNeil, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Saint-Marie, Barenaked Ladies, Leonard Cohen, Murray McLauchlan, Neil Young (surprise!), Bruce Cockburn, John Allan Cameron, The McGarrigle Sisters, James Taylor, Bob Dylan (who was not on the bill but showed up anyway) in 1975 and 1976, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Doc Watson, Buddy Guy, Richie Havens, Taj Mahal and so, so, many more.

Lovers In A Dangerous Times – Barenaked Ladies

The Swimming Song – The McGarrigle Sisters

Wondering Where The Lions Are – Bruce Cockburn

Although the festival has featured major headliners throughout the years, the mission statement remains the same. “The promotion and preservation of folk art in Canada through song, story, dance and craft.”

In 1975 folk/blues singer Malvina Reynolds held a workshop titled Bread and Roses, focused on women’s protest songs. Her song, Little Boxes, became a hit for Pete Seeger and was used as the theme song for the TV series Weeds.

Little Boxes – Malvina Reynolds

Throughout the years control of the festival had also changed hands a few times as well. It was finally taken over by the Toronto Guild of Canadian Folk Artists in 1969 and then by the Mariposa Folk Foundation in 1977 and to this day is still a volunteer driven, non-profit group presenting music, crafts, stories and dance for all ages. Annual membership fees are only $25

In general……

Mariposa is an experience and all senses are on high alert. Well planned, well thought out, well executed. It will take a number of columns (each Mariposa day will be a separate story) to share the stories and music (along with a hoard of photos) but suffice to say it was an absolutely unbelievable weekend!! Huge, huge thanks to Sandy Bolyki for putting the bug in my ear and Ken Rovinelli for his assistance and kindness for my media/VIP pass.  Mariposa would not happen without the volunteers who make it a weekend to remember. Folks like Andrew MacPhee who was immensely helpful with all the backstage goings on and guiding me around and Mariah and Frank Saunders who have been heavily involved with the festival for years.. Kudos to everyone for the extraordinarily hard work you do putting a smile on everyone’s face and a song in their hearts.

Ride anyone?

Hitchin’ A Ride – Vanity Fair

I’m going next year.


Summer In The City – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Mariposa people…..

A packed tent and music for all ages…..

Dead Head???

A father and son moment

Undivided attention

I got mine…..

Nap time…..

A man and his kilt…..

Family time in the food tent


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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