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Community celebrates late Gordon Lightfoot on 85th birthday

Hometown folk legend died in May, 'but he has left a musical legacy,' says co-organizer of Friday's event

Dozens of community members gathered Friday in downtown Orillia to celebrate what would have been Gordon Lightfoot’s 85th birthday.

The celebration was held at PICNIC, where attendees sang Happy Birthday in honour of the hometown folk music legend who died in May. They also enjoyed cake and refreshments, and listened to Lightfoot hits covered by Steve Porter on the gloomy November day.

“On May 1, 2023, Gord departed this realm, but he has left a musical legacy that not only will stand the test of time, but has touched so many lives over the five decades he has chronicled the Canadian spirit with his songs,” said event co-organizer Daphne Mainprize.

Organizers of the recent Lightfoot Days Pop-up Festival put the birthday celebration together following a successful showing at the three-day event earlier this month, when more than 400 people attended a Classic Lightfoot Live tribute concert, among other strong showings over the weekend.

“(With) how successful the Lightfoot Pop-up Festival was two weekends ago, it was just a matter of reaching out to PICNIC, and they were more than happy to host our event,” said co-organizer John Winchester.

Organizers said Lightfoot Days will be returning as a mainstay event, as will birthday celebrations in the troubadour’s honour. The plans are to host the event from Nov. 1 to 3, 2024, with updates to be made available through the 2024 Orillia Lightfoot Days Facebook page.

This year’s event drew people from as far as Florida, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Michigan.

Winchester hinted at the possibility of the Gordon Lightfoot Band performing at next year’s festival but said their attendance is yet to be confirmed.

“We’re having our people talk to their people,” he said.

At the party, Mayor Don McIsaac donated two of the Lightfoot guitars that lined Orillia’s downtown streets over the summer as potential items for display in the Lightfoot museum the city and community partners are working to bring together.

“We had an opportunity at the recent (guitar) auction to purchase some, so we thought this would be a great way to seed the museum,” McIsaac said.

He said it was “great to see” the success of the recent festival, as well.

“John Winchester and his team did a great job,” he said. “It’s just wonderful to see the community come together, and there were people from all over North America.”

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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