For the first time since 2019, folk fans have begun flocking to Orillia for the Mariposa Folk Festival.
And, for the first time in more than 30 years, tickets to the iconic music festival are sold out.
Thousands of guests from near and far descended upon Tudhope Park Friday afternoon to kick off the weekend’s festivities – scrambling to find good places to sit, filling beer tents, and trying out one of this year’s many food trucks for the first time in three years.
“We have come for about 10 years in a row, and we're so glad to be back,” said Kate Kennington, who came from Peterborough with her daughters, Porta and Cameron. “We loved the atmosphere from the very first time when we came and (my daughters) were very, very little. It's such a community thing and it feels so safe and it's just a lot of fun.”
Dan Prokop and Diane Mackie made the trip all the way from Halifax to attend the festival
“We used to live in Barrie, and that's how we got hooked on to it,” Prokop said. “We moved to Halifax, and (the festival is) the main draw to bring us back.
“Most years we find we didn't know all the lineup, actually, fairly few people in the lineup, but we always find some artists that are kick ass, and we want to follow them afterwards,” said Mackie. “The best part of it is just the atmosphere, you know, everybody is stressed getting through the gate, and now we’re here – it’s chill.”
Mayor Steve Clarke, Simcoe North MP Adam Chambers and MPP Jill Dunlop, Lorraine McRae, and Pam Carter addressed the crowd to kick off the festival.
“It's wonderful after two-and-a-half years of lockdowns and a pandemic to be back in person,” Mayor Clarke said. “Orillia has many great events and festivals, but is there one that's greater than Mariposa? I don't think so.”
Dozens of artists are slated to perform over the course of the weekend, and ‘60 in 60,’ featuring Orillia's very own Lance Anderson, opened Friday’s schedule as an acknowledgement of the past 60 years of music.
Clarke also gave a nod to the organizers, and the hundreds of volunteers that made the event happen.
“That's because ... the volunteers, the performers, the people that handle the logistics behind the scenes, and of course the performers and the wonderful artists –without them, it just doesn't happen. A special thank you to Pam and her team, including the Mariposa board for the last two years for keeping this alive.”
Pam Carter, event coordinator and president of the Mariposa Folk Festival Foundation, said she cannot personally remember the last time the festival has sold out of tickets.
“This is the first in my experience, and I talked to one of the longtime volunteers, and he said the last time he can remember is 1988,” she told OrilliaMatters. “I think it speaks to the celebration of the return to live (music). Everybody's ready, after the pandemic, we're ready to get back together – community engagement and just a fun weekend.
“Production, artists, volunteers, sponsors, patrons, the community ... everybody has been impacted in different ways, and to get back together as a family is incredible,” she said.
On top of returning as an in-person event, the Mariposa Hall of Fame will see Orillia's Gordon Lightfoot inducted as its newest member as part of Sunday night's festivities.
The festival is also celebrating its 60th anniversary in its return, which would have been celebrated in 2021 if not for COVID-19 restrictions.