Mariposa: the grown-up music festival

by Jack Batten
Toronto Globe and Mail
July 23, 1970

What are you looking for at Mariposa this year? An old favorite back to thrill you again (like Odetta or David Rea)? A famous name (Joni Mitchell or Doug Kershaw)? Or a romantic figure (James Taylor)? Some country blues (like Mississippi Fred McDowell's)? Or some city blues (like J.B. Hutto's)? Or are you looking to be surprised by brand new talent from somewhere out of left field (maybe Bruce Murdoch of Montreal will pull that trick or maybe Edith Butler from New Brunswick)?

Or are you smart - are you heading for Toronto Island on Friday or Saturday or Sunday, the three days of this year's festival, just to sit in the sun and let the breezes from lake Ontario wash over you and let the folk sounds strike your ear any old way?

The great blessing of mariposa is that it can accommodate any tastes, any attitudes at all. Mariposa is the grown-up among pop music festivals. It's 10 years old, and it passed through its delinquent stage earlier in its life, the years when straight citizens hassled it, motorbike guys invaded it and cops came looking for arrests.

Mariposa has, in short, outlasted and outgrown all the grief that younger rock festivals are enduring these days, and especially since it moved to Toronto Island three years ago, it has settled down to the highly rewarding business of giving its audiences nothing but good music and good times.

All the performers names above will be performing on one or other of the three evening concerts, and most of them - not Joni Mitchell - will be showing up for the day-time workshops. And, as usual, Mariposa is also bringing in a few relative unknowns who may, as people like Miss Mitchell and Leonard Cohen did in their early undiscovered days, appear unheralded and astound the audiences who thought they knew it all in the folk world.

"Well, about the new people, we started out this year being just a little embarrassed," says Dick Flohil, the festival's publicity man who, like everyone else connected with Mariposa, an aggressively non-profit event, works long and hard for

only a token fee. "We supposed we'd heard all the singers Canada had, and then we headed to Montreal and auditioned a whole stageful of fantastic performers. Bruce Murdoch and Raoul Roy and Linda and Renata Trujillo aren't names that mean much now but they may mean a whole lot more to a lot of people by next week. And then there's the Indians and Eskimos."

That's Alanis Obomsawin's department. She's the Odanak Indian singer from Montreal, a lady as beautiful as her name sounds, and under her urging, Mariposa is setting up a centre for Indian and Eskimo singers, dancers, craftsmen and cooks (they'll serve free food).

The Indian-Eskimo appearance is part of Mariposa's continuing search for folk roots. They've gone into the deep south for blues singers; now it's up to the deep north. And even if that doesn't work out, it's still nice to travel over to the Island anyway, over with the sun and the breezes and the soft folk sounds.


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