By Jennifer Harker

Mariposa
Photo credit the City of Orillia

This is the Orillia Waterfront Centre. It is a full functioning port building with showers and laundry services for the boaters who have docking slips. It is a transient dock, which means slips can only be purchased daily.

Take your boat and a beautiful waterfront setting, pair that with a fantastic musical lineup of over 100 Canadian and international performers, spice it up with an awesome food truck alley, add in an artistically diverse artisan’s marketplace and finish it with a Folkplay area dedicated to children’s fun and you have the successful recipe for the Mariposa Folk Festival.


Each July this longstanding musical tradition kicks off the summer at Tudhope Park in Orillia on the picturesque shores of Lake Couchiching and you can get there by boat. This year’s festival runs July 5-7 and is celebrating 20 years back in the city where it all began 59 years ago.


Before doing an eye roll at the term “folk”, rest assured this is not your parents’ or your grandparents’ folk. Chris Hazel is the manager of the Mariposa Folk Foundation. He said Mariposa is different things to different people. “Folk is a flexible term. It’s not just music from the 1960s. It’s world music, it’s folk-pop, there are dance elements, blues, spoken word and hip hop. The general theme is folk, but it’s different music.”

He pointed to 2018’s varied lineup as an example. “Last year’s headliner Walk Off The Earth was a huge hit for younger audiences [while some] say Buffy Sainte Marie to me means folk. Others look at the Good Lovelies and say that’s folk in 2018. We stick to our roots so it feels like the same place but give it a fresh feel.”

The festival has experienced phenomenal audience growth in the past two years, and it is no accident. Hazel said, “Ticket sales have jumped by almost 60% in the last two years – 40% from 2016 to 2017 and an additional 17% from 2017 to 2018.” That record pace meant just shy of 29,000 people visited the festival during its three-day run last year.


The largest demographic jump was a whopping 75% increase in attendance for those aged 19-24.

Front View of OWC
The Orillia Waterfront Centre serves as a full functioning port building with showers and laundry services for boaters. The Port of Orillia is a transient docking facility with slips available on a daily basis.


Hazel credits the record growth to investments in artistic talent with a strategic push to appeal to a younger audience, while remaining true to their roots. “The board took a calculated gamble with the overall lineup. We’re careful not to do anything to turn off our traditional audience but we need to attract the next generation of families to ensure the festival will last for another 60 years.”

Programming saw Ruth B take to the main stage in 2017 while Walk Off The Earth headlined 2018. Both gained exposure to younger viewers through social media early in their careers before moving to mainstream audiences. “It is a challenge to stay relevant and stay popular,” Hazel said. “You don’t want to be the flavor of the day. You need continuity but you need to keep it fresh too.” Finding both those elements in the vibrantly diverse list of performers makes Mariposa a real multi-generational experience. “We encourage families to come together. Grandparents introduce not just the music but the whole Mariposa vibe to their grandchildren.”


FESTIVAL SURVIVAL TIPS


If this will be your first festival, Hazel offers a few survival tips to make the most of your time. “Bring a chair, preferably one with a low back [to not block the view of those seated behind you]. It’s nice to have a blanket to put your stuff on. Bring a water bottle – we don’t sell water on site but have a hydration station to refill it – and bring lots of sunscreen.”

Another key to make the most of all the music possibilities? Download the free festival app to your phone to stay on top of surprise announcements and customize your schedule to find your favourite performers. With 11 stages and over 100 emerging and established performers it’s impossible to see every show so Hazel recommends using the app to plan your weekend. “Wow, I just discovered Irish Mythen on Saturday. Where else is she playing this weekend? The app will alert you. It also offers links to music and videos to learn more about the artists.” Search Mariposa Folk in the App Store (Apple) and the Google Play store (android).

Discovering new artists is a big part of Mariposa’s history and something they’ve perfected over the years with the ‘workshop’ format, where several acts play together on stage. “The artistic director decides which two or three acts could go together and riff off each other. That’s the magic of Mariposa. It’s a richer musical experience and a really fun part of Mariposa,” Hazel said. “Headliners are vital to selling tickets to get people in the gate, but it’s the workshops that keep them coming back.” The live intimate setting of the smaller stages is a bit like a farmers’ market where audiences are exposed to their personal passion and then buy a CD to feel like they directly support the performers, making an impact on their success and ability to pursue their passion. While the music industry has changed significantly with most people downloading music, (unfortunately often illegally), Hazel said CD sales remain strong in the Emporium tent and often becomes a soundtrack for the year, until the next festival.

Putting all the pieces into place for a memorable musical lineup is a year-long task. “Artistic director Liz Scott criss-crosses North America seeing seeking out new musical acts and working with agents. It’s quite a jigsaw puzzle,” Hazel said.

The entire Mariposa experience comes with a family-friendly vibe and Hazel said in recent years they’ve focused on expanding the popular Folkplay area with more activities and performers specifically for kids. “There are arts and crafts activities, on-stage performers, magicians and theatre, buskers, workshops for juggling and stilt walking. There’s the Studio Point where kids can do their own art and learn from well established artists. Last year we had a reptile show and storytelling.” Other years have included a musical ‘petting zoo’ where kids can release their inner musician by trying out a variety of instruments.

On-site camping is available as well, making Mariposa a perfect family weekend getaway. “It’s such a beautiful location on Lake Couchiching. Tudhope Park is a mature park with beautiful shade, the peninsula extends into the lake. Year after year audience surveys comment on the really special place we have here. It’s feeding your soul with good music.”

BOAT TO MARIPOSA


Consider coming by boat as Orillia is on the historic Trent-Severn Waterway. There are a number of overnight options including anchoring in the bay adjacent to Tudhope Park; booking a transient slip at nearby marinas such as Bridge Port Marina (mere steps from the park); or staying at the Port of Orillia and then biking the waterfront trail to the park or taking the free shuttle bus from the downtown area.

Hazel said Mariposa is recognized as the longest running folk festival in all of North America. “To last in all of those economic climates in 60 years is impressive.” Capitalizing on the folk revival in 1961 the festival was born in Orillia but after three years it began a rather vagabond existence that would take it to Toronto, Innis Lake, the Toronto Islands, Harbourfront, Barrie, Bracebridge and Muskoka. By 2000 the festival needed revamping and returned to Orillia where it has been embraced by the community.

The festival couldn’t continue without its dedicated volunteers, numbering almost 600 who help at the festival and throughout the year. Dozens of teams do everything from sound, lighting and stage set-up to cooking food for performers and greening the festival by staffing every garbage station to help patrons place items in the correct container. “It is labour intensive, but worth it. We are at the forefront of greening initiatives,” Hazel said.

The festival achieves about a 90% waste diversion rate, making it one of the greenest festivals anywhere. At least once a month Hazel fields phone calls from other festivals looking for tips to reduce their environmental impact. Organizers are proud of the fact that no one-time use water bottles are sold on-site and everything in the food area is compostable from cutlery and cups to plates. “It was challenging to do the first couple of years, but it’s partly education and we help vendors by connecting them with the producers of compostable items for food service. Now they’ve embraced it. It’s part of their branding to be good global citizens.”


The festival’s mandate of promoting and preserving folk art in Canada through song, story, dance and craft is reflected in the diverse lineup which constantly evolves but already includes the sharp-satirical edge of indie entertainer Steve Poltz, cutting edge and three time Juno Award winner Carole Pope, Swedish sister folk pop First Aid Kit, and Grammy Award winner Jason Isbell.

New acts are added right up until the festival so watch the website www.mariposafolk.com for the latest announcements, get on the email list or like them on Facebook. Tickets range from one day to weekend passes with different pricing based on age. Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult.


For additional information call 705-326-3655.

Kick off the summer with a 59-year tradition at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia.

Folk Play Art
Photo credit Mariposa Folk Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Immerse the whole family in the Mariposa Folk Festival: The Folk Play area features plenty of entertaining activities and performers to engage younger audiences. Children 12 and under are admitted free to the festival when accompanied by a ticket bearing adult.

Ruth B
Photo credit Mariposa Folk Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Definitely not your grandparents’ folk: Mainstage headliners like Ruth B and Walk Off The Earth have pushed attendance to almost 29,000 people, increasing attendance by ages 19-24 by 75 per cent.

Reuben and the Dark
Photo credit Mariposa Folk Foundation


Up close: Intimate workshop stages and performances like Rueben and the Dark in the pub tent make audiences feel part of the experience as over 100 emerging and established Canadian and international performers appear each year at Mariposa

Bruce Cockburn
Photo credit Mariposa Folk Foundation


Folk is flexible: Audiences have enjoyed many musical styles of folk from storytelling and spoken word to hip hop and blues with diverse artists such as Bruce Cockburn and Whitehorse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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