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Lightfoot to be added to Mariposa Folk Festival Hall of Fame

Folk legend to be inducted during next month's festival
2018-07-07 Mariposa Gordon Lightfoot 1
Gordon Lightfoot is shown at the Mariposa Folk Festival in this file photo. | Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

The Mariposa Folk Foundation will enshrine Gordon Lightfoot in its Hall of Fame at this year’s festival, July 8 to 10, at Tudhope Park in Orillia.

“Over the past 62 years, the number of world-class artists that have graced our stage is truly exceptional,” said foundation president Pam Carter. “Among these, however, Gordon Lightfoot stands apart for his unique contribution and commitment. Is his enshrinement overdue? Of course, it is. And the foundation could not be more honoured to celebrate our connection with Gordon at this year’s festival.”

“You take care of your home — and the Mariposa Folk Festival feels like coming home to me,” said Orillia native and music legend Gordon Lightfoot. “On stage at Mariposa with the sun setting on Tudhope Park is magic — always has been, always will be.”

A special live and pre-recorded tribute to Lightfoot will be held on the evening of Sunday, July 10 at Mariposa’s main stage to commemorate the Hall of Fame induction.

Gordon Lightfoot recalled, with a smile, how he and his then-singing partner, Terry Whelan, were turned down by the inaugural Mariposa Folk Festival of 1961.

“We were hometown boys,” he stated, “but they said we sounded too much like the Everly Brothers. We actually took that as a compliment.”

The next year, though, Gordon was hired as a solo act and joined the likes of Oscar Brand, the Travellers, and Ian and Sylvia at the Lions Oval in Orillia.

In 1964, at Maple Leaf Stadium in downtown Toronto, Gordon found himself on stage with folk-blues legends Mississippi John Hurt and Reverend Gary Davis. An archival recording of that historic event has Lightfoot introducing his brilliant new song, Early Morning Rain, and is featured in a recent Mariposa Virtual Stage video hosted by Shelagh Rogers.

The festival moved north of Brampton for the next few years at Innis Lake. Lightfoot shared top billing with the likes of Pete Seeger, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell. As his career began to take off, Mariposa provided an annual venue to showcase new songs and new albums.

After a nomadic journey around Ontario, the festival finally returned to Orillia in 2000. It was uncertain Mariposa would even survive, let alone return to its past glory. Organizers announced that the hometown hero would be the Sunday night headliner. Immediately, hundreds of tickets were sold and the question of whether there would be a successful festival was put to rest. With his backup band of Terry Clements and Rick Haynes, Lightfoot put on a spellbinding performance, giving the open-air audience a taste of his hits and well-loved songs.

“Mariposa’s return to Orillia and our flourishing success ever since could simply not have happened without the support of Gordon Lightfoot,” said Carter. “When the foundation was at its most vulnerable, he stepped in and made the difference.”

The three-day Mariposa Folk Festival (July 8 to 10, at Tudhope Park, Orillia) features more than 10 stages of top folk-roots music, along with presentations of story, dance, and craft. All ticket categories are on sale. Kids 12 and under are admitted free. The festival has special pricing for youth and young adults. More information can be found at