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No Mariposa like this one: Dylan, Lightfoot, Young, Mitchell Print-ready version

by Peter Goddard
Toronto Star
July 17, 1972
Original article: PDF

Bob Dylan, rarely seen in the past five years, hugged Gordon Lightfoot before escaping fans running after him.

Neil Young led 4,000 in a sing-a-long as Joni Mitchell looked on.

It all happened as the 12th annual Mariposa Folk Festival, on Toronto Island, ended last night.

What had started Friday in typical low-key Mariposa fashion almost ended Saturday amid sudden, driving rain squalls that forced the promoters to turn off the performers' electrical systems. It finally finished yesterday however, with the unexpected and virtually unnoticed appearance of what one fan described as "more folk superstars than have ever been together at one place at one time for any one reason."


Central to this was the slight figure of Bob Dylan who, in jeans, white shirt and wearing a red bandana and rimless spectacles, wandered unrecognized with his wife, Sarah, through the crowd of 14,000.

In the still-wet fields away from the six performing areas, Dylan was given a bottle of beer by a passerby. Then, circling, he stood briefly in a crowd watching some fiddlers before moving to another area to listen to old blues pianist Roosevelt Sykes and blues guitarist Bukka White.

"We were vacationing in the area, and decided to drop in," he said, looking much less than his 30 years, and more like the brilliant, hungry kid folk singer whose past decade of songs had inspired Mariposa to set aside an entire workshop Saturday afternoon called "the influences of, and on Bob Dylan."

"We've been here for Mariposa's three days," he said. "We even got rained out like everyone else on Saturday.

"But this looks like a really nice festival. I've been to Mariposa several times in the past; but this year it reminds me of the way it was 10 years ago.

"I won't be playing, though. I've been doing other things."


So were most of the 33,000 who attended the three-day presentation of 151 different concerts and craft displays by more than 200 singers, dancers, musicians and craftsmen, and who had been lulled by Mariposa's starless star system and quiet meandering pace.

The attendance was about 8,000 higher than last year, when the festival lost $7,000. According to festival spokesman Dick Flohill, a profit can be expected this year, though he couldn't say how much.

Organized to both protect performers' anonymity and to disseminate as much "authentic" folk music as possible, Mariposa stopped its practice of ending each day with a major concert after gate-crashing took place in 1970.

It started Saturday when singer Murray McLachlan cut short his otherwise engrossing concert to introduce Joni Mitchell who immediately started singing.

Her sure and steadily rhythmic guitar work, and her high-pitched, keening voice for songs like Both Sides Now, and Woodstock, soon drew fans from other performing area.

This process was repeated yesterday when singer Bruce Cockburn, after providing the best concert of his career, introduced Neil Young.


Shortly afterwards, Gordon Lightfoot sat down on a picnic bench and started singing without a microphone, accompanied by several guitarists in the audience of 150.

"The whole thing was accidental," Lightfoot explained. "I was just sitting there when someone handed me a guitar." Lightfoot, who was suffering from a disease called Bell's palsy which partially paralyzed his mouth when he was in Toronto three moths ago, said that he is now almost completely cured.

What the festival organizers had feared started two happen when two dozen fans all but chased Young into the performers compound, and then another dozen or so recognized Dylan, and started to follow him.

Dylan, too, retreated to the fenced-off performers' area, and started talking to Lightfoot when it appeared that a crowd might jump the fence. Within 15 minutes he was hustled off the Island in a Harbor Police boat, leaving at least one young fan crying.

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