For anyone who enjoys the trails in Orillia’s Tudhope Park, especially early in the morning, they are likely used to seeing fast-paced walker Pam Carter circling the park as part of her daily 8-kilometre trek.
For the past six years or so, Carter has walked through Tudhope Park every day of the year, no matter the season or the weather.
“I walk here because it’s such a beautiful site in Orillia,” said Carter. “It’s so idyllic and it’s one of the things I really thank Orillia for – for preserving the park the way it is – a bit of leisure, a bit of sports, swimming, plus winter activity. I don’t think there’s a more beautiful park in Orillia.”
Carter’s fitness routine typically includes going to the gym four days a week, in addition to her daily walks. With her gym workouts on hold because of COVID-19 restrictions, she is happy to be able to continue her walking activity.
“I walk as fast as I can. I’m not a speed walker, but I try and go as fast as I can for the cardio benefits. It’s also a time for me to become thoughtful, insightful and reflect.”
The park has a special significance for Carter. She is the president and festival coordinator of the Mariposa Folk Festival, which has taken place in Tudhope Park for the past 20 years.
Although the festival originated in Orillia in 1960, it moved to various locations, including Toronto Island, before returning to its birthplace in 1999. This year would have marked the 60th anniversary of the festival, had it not been cancelled because of the pandemic.
As Carter enjoys her brisk walks through the setting she loves, she is also thinking about the park as the festival site. “I walk through the park and envision the festivals past and the festivals moving forward.”
This year, with the cancellation of the festival, Carter says what she will miss most is the community.
“If this were a typical year, I would be busy working with festival volunteers, staff, partners and friends getting ready for the festival,” explains Carter. “From the minute we begin set-up, the festival is like a reunion of friends. We’re seeing people that we haven’t seen for a year – it’s the way the festival brings the community together that I’ll miss the most.”
As a Mariposa Folk Festival volunteer for over 16 years, it’s no wonder that Carter is so connected to the festival community and its setting. She started as a performer shuttle driver and eventually moved through various posts to become Festival Coordinator and President of the Mariposa Folk Foundation (the organization that hosts the Festival), a position she’s held for the past six years.
After she retired from working full-time at Huronia Regional Centre and then in the community coordinating services for adults with mental health needs, she continued to dedicate more of her time to the festival and the community that supports it.
“The sense of community around the festival is quite astounding,” says Carter. “We’ve had volunteers involved for over 30 years and the local community has really stepped forward to make the return of the festival to Orillia successful.”
Even without the festival happening this year, Carter has discovered another sense of community through her morning walks.
“It’s the same walking. I regularly see the same people on my walks. We may not know each other’s names, but we chat and check in with each other.”
Tudhope Park also brings back childhood memories for Carter, who was born and raised in Orillia. She remembers the park when it was a municipal campground, before it was closed to campers in 1988 and became a public park.
“As a kid, I used to walk over to Moose Beach every day in the summer. We were always told not to go into the camping area though,” she recalled. “I think this is also why I’m so happy that Orillia has preserved it; there have been lots of improvements, but for the most part, the park remains in its natural state.”
And as a location for the Mariposa Folk Festival, Carter says you can’t get a more beautiful setting.
“There’s lots of space for our 11 stages, trees, water, safe places for children; it just can’t be compared to the bigger urban festivals. The setting has definitely contributed to the success of Mariposa," Carter says.
With the festival cancelled this year, Carter will still be out enjoying the “site” during her regular walks.
“It will feel sad in some respects, that we can’t have a festival this year, but the fact that I’m out walking through the park among other people gives me hope that we’ll be able to host the festival next year to celebrate our 60th anniversary.”
She adds that she will also look forward to this year’s Mariposa Virtual Stage, a series of concerts taking place on the Mariposa Facebook page. For Sunday, July 5 – which would have been the closing day of the 2020 Festival – the concert will feature some of the artists who were scheduled to perform at the festival.
“We recorded both individual performances and workshops,” said Carter. “There are some wonderful performances. I plan to host a ‘watch party,’ reminisce and look forward to 2021.”