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COLUMN: Weekend festival set to celebrate Lightfoot legacy

Pop-up festival will feature concerts, cake, church service, bus tours, old interviews and more in honour of Orillia's favourite son, Gordon Lightfoot
Gordon Lightfoot chats with St. Paul's minister Karen Hilfman Millson and the church's music director, Blair Bailey, during a visit to the church in 2013. You can check out these intimate interviews as part of a jam-packed weekend of events during the Lightfoot Days Pop-Up Festival that begins Friday and runs through Sunday.

Welcome to November ... and the snow is here, just to remind us what’s in store.

This first weekend in November, the star of the events show is, of course, the Lightfoot Days Pop-Up Festival. This is an expansion and rebirth of the original Lightfoot days, conceived and organized by some community enthusiasts and folks with ties to Lightfoot. 

Now, the first November (Lightfoot’s birthday is Nov. 17) since his death May 1, seems like a very fitting time to be bringing this special Orillia festival back. 

The festival runs from Friday through Sunday. On Friday night, Classic Lightfoot Live, a fantastic Lightfoot tribute band, will kick things off with a show at St. Paul’s Centre. The show gets underway at 7:30 p.m. and there are a few $45 tickets still available, here. If there are any left after 5 p.m. Nov. 3, you will be able to get them at the door for $50.  

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Mayor Don McIsaac will be at the Orillia Opera House to proclaim the day Gordon Lightfoot Day. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, there will be Lightfoot memorabilia on display at the Orillia Museum of Art and History. 

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, make your way to St. Paul’s Centre (this is Gord’s childhood church) where there will be a never-before-heard audio interview of Gord from 2005 running. 

From 11:30 to 1:30, there will be tours leaving from the Orillia Opera House, of the Opera House, and the Streets Alive Lightfoot-themed guitars street art. 

At 2 p.m. and 3:45 p.m., you can tour St. Paul’s Centre. And at 2:45 p.m., check out a never-been-seen-before 2011 video interview of Gord conducted by then-St. Paul’s minister, Karen Hilfman Millson. At 4:30 p.m., also at St. Paul’s, there will be an airing of another never-been-heard-before audio interview from 2013. 

Saturday, the other event of the weekend, the Kiwanis Club mammoth auction, is happening at ODAS Park. And, a guitar autographed by our Gord will be being auctioned off. You won’t want to miss out on that. 

Sunday, there will be a live-streamed worship service at St. Paul’s, with a focus on Gordon Lightfoot. The weekend wraps up with a commemorative birthday cake at Mariposa Market at 12:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, daytime and evening, enjoy live music, much of it with a Lightfoot theme, at many participating restaurants and venues downtown. You can pick up the full schedule at events throughout the festival, or online through the Facebook event page discussion group here

It’s going to be one for the books. Conceived and mostly executed by volunteers, with a bit of the help from the city and, of course, a lot of support from local businesses and event centres, this is a true Orillia-style event! Come out and enjoy, and don’t forget to thank everyone for their hard work!

I hope everyone had a great Hallowe’en. It was amazing how the evening started out fall, and ended up winter. Much like our events. Tons of great Christmas events were announced this week; local groups and event planners really want you to get right into it. I want to give you a heads up of just some of the great Christmas and holiday events coming our way. We are so lucky!

First though, just a reminder of a couple of cool events that are happening shortly. 

Thursday, Nov. 9 to Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Orillia Opera House (OOH), don’t miss the Mariposa Arts Theatre 50th anniversary extravaganza show. With music director Blair Bailey and a cast of literally all of your favourite MAT stars, you know it’s going to be INCREDIBLE. Get your tickets through the OOH now at

Friday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at the OOH, come and check out Research and Design’s fruits of the adelheid partnership, with dance artist Rachana Joshi and lighting designer Melissa Joakim. This is a show that has been being work-shopped all week at the OOH, the whole thing being brought forward by our own Arts Orillia.

These are incredibly talented artists, it's unbelievable that they are here, so, go see them. You can get tickets at the door for $10 or pay what you can. Just come. 

On Nov. 18 at 12:55 p.m., the Life and Times of Malcolm X will be showing at Cineplex Theatre’s through the Live from the Met programming. This is an amazing chance to see live opera from New York’s City’s Metropolitan Opera. It’s thrilling, beautiful, and wonderful. Go to our local Galaxy Theatre in Orillia to see it here! We are privileged to have this programming here, so don’t waste this chance! This will be an incredible show.

Lots more great November programming which I will get into next week.

Now, a quick preview of some Christmas shows.

Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m., join the Cellar Singers for Messiah. It will be amazing. It’s at St. James’ Anglican Church here in Orillia. Tickets here

Dec. 1, Dress for Success will be bringing back their popular Reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Readers Krista Storey, Mayor MacIsaac, and MP Adam Chambers will be reprising their roles, and some new surprise readers will be on hand as well. The whole show will be at St. Paul’s Centre, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets here

The Orillia Concert Band will be offering two holiday concerts on Dec. 2 at St. Paul’s Centre. A shorter, family-friendly one at 3:30 that afternoon, and the longer, traditional Christmas Prelude at 7:30 p.m.. Both will be excellent. Guaranteed. These folks know what they are doing. Tickets here

Orillia Silver Band's traditional Sleighbells and Brass concert is Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the OOH. Again, will be fantastic. Tickets

We are very privileged to be hosting Skydiggers Christmas Show here on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. The ‘diggers do a couple Christmas shows in the city and one in Meaford, and now this one. So, we are very lucky. You should go. Tickets here. I have gone every year for years now, except for COVID, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s a very special night.

A couple of quick arts notes: David Crighton is guesting at Hibernation Arts, opening reception is this Saturday from 12 to 3 p.m. with light refreshments. And, Peter Street Fine Arts is hosting its traditional 6x6 show in December. Artists come pick up your 6x6 boards from the gallery Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and get painting!

That’s all for now, although there is so much more. We will get to it! If you have arts news, send it to [email protected] by Tuesday at noon to be included. 


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