Birds still sing at Tudhope Park on Lake Couchiching on the first weekend of July in Orillia, Ont.
If a ticket holder to the 2020 Mariposa Folk Festival went to sleep two years ago and woke up today, nothing much would have changed for them. Their ticket from the cancelled 2020 Mariposa is still valid in 2022. And the schedule of performers from two years ago looks almost identical to the upcoming edition, with headliners that include Mavis Staples, Kathleen Edwards, The Weather Station and Serena Ryder.
Mariposa, which takes place from July 8 to July 10, has been happening for more than 60 years. It’s had its ups, downs and calamities over the years, but the notion that it could be cancelled two years in a row because of a viral pandemic and come back as strong as ever is a head scratcher. It’s not just Mariposa either – folk festivals across the country are back, maybe even in the black.
“We feel we’re in a very good financial position this year,” said Pam Carter, president of the Mariposa Folk Festival and Foundation. “Through luck or good planning, I’m not sure which.”
Carter and her team had a choice to make after cancelling the 2020 event. Do they stay dark until pandemic measures are lifted, or do they tread water with virtual concerts and occasional capacity-restricted live shows? They chose the latter, based on the generosity of funding organizations, local business sponsors, festival volunteers and ticket-buyers.
“The support from the community was overwhelming,” Carter said. “Patrons not only deferred tickets, they made additional donations.”
Carter said members of the business community left their sponsorships in place, even though they were suffering financial hardship themselves. As well, grants previously allocated to the festival were allowed to be repurposed.
“That allowed us to keep the lights on and the doors open,” she said.
With ticket sales for this year’s Mariposa tracking with pre-pandemic levels, Carter expects a sold-out festival this summer. “That patron support brought in dollars for capital expenditures,” she said.
Capital expenditures – there’s the rub. While this summer’s festivalgoers will be partying like it’s 2019, not everything is as it was. Costs have risen significantly and equipment is harder to source. Companies that supply festival infrastructure necessities – everything from fencing to portable toilets to artist trailers to golf carts – have gone out of business over the past few years.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, workers in the live music industry have drifted away from those jobs. Now, with so many artists touring at once, equipment and skilled help to operate it are in high demand. The bottom line is that operating a festival this summer is a costlier proposition than ever.
“It’s certainly presenting challenges,” Carter admitted.
The 2022 Mariposa promotional campaign is built around a theme that asks its attendees, artists, festival staff and volunteers how it feels to be back again at Tudhope Park.
The likely answer? Same as it ever did, more or less.
Top 10 summer music events
Rolling Stones Unzipped
While the British bad boys hit the road in Europe this summer for their Sixty tour, a touring exhibit of band-related artifacts and paraphernalia celebrates the Stones’ diamond anniversary with a seven-week stay at Winnipeg Expo Live starting June 11.
Montreal International Jazz Festival
Indoor and outdoor, with more than 350 concerts by artists from here, there and almost everywhere. Among the highlights are sets from Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi, hip hop veterans The Roots, bossa nova specialist Bebel Gilberto, British neo-soulster Corinne Bailey Rae and jazzers Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Wynton Marsalis. June 30 to July 9.
Riding the pop-punk revival like a skateboard, the singer is in a mood these days judging by new album Love Sux that offers the spunk, sass and idiosyncratic spelling of Bite Me and Bois Lie. A North American tour includes shows at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena (July 6) and Vancouver’s Rogers Arena (July 23).
The bad news was that in 2021 the Blinding Lights superstar shelved his arena concerts. The good news is that he upgraded to a stadium tour this summer that he describes as his “most ambitious production to date.” The bad news is that Doja Cat has pulled out of her opening slot on the tour because of tonsil surgery. Toronto’s Rogers Centre (July 8); Vancouver’s BC Place (Aug. 23).
The latest inductee into Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame brings her melodic bits of anger, hope and autobiography to eight cities here this summer, beginning with a headlining appearance at Ottawa Bluesfest on July 10.
Calgary Folk Music Festival
The annual four-day family-friendly festival always has the picturesque Prince’s Island Park going for it. This summer, Calgary Folk has a lineup to match the setting, with Allison Russell, Cadence Weapon, K’Naan, Courtney Barnett, Basia Bulat, Black Pumas and others on hand. July 21 to July 24.
Osheaga Music and Arts Festival
One of North America’s premiere rock fests has something the Lollapaloozas, Riot Fests and Bonnaroos don’t have: Arcade Fire. The sweaty Montreal conceptualists show off their excellent new album WE at their lone festival date, July 29 at Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau.
Did you know the Max Webster rocker wrote Patio Lanterns about the storied Ontario cottage-country venue Kee to Bala? He also wrote Lager and Ale. You get the idea – it’s party time at the Kee on Aug. 6.
Good kid – great songwriter. The Pulitzer Prize-winning hip hop auteur hits the road this summer in support of his latest (but not his greatest) album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. Canadian appearances include stops at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena (Aug. 12 and Aug. 13) and Vancouver’s Rogers Arena (Aug. 28).
Victoria’s popular multiday festival returns on Sept. 15, after a four-year hiatus. Topping the bill of nearly 100 acts are pop stars Lorde and Charli XCX, Russian protest band Pussy Riot, and retired basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, who performs under the name of DJ Diesel. We missed your eclecticism, Rifflandia.
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