Arts & Culture

Blast from the past: Remembering the Mariposa Folk Festival 1967

By Norb

A couple of buddies, Ed, John H., John R. and I attended the seventh annual Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967, 2 years before Woodstock. This was probably our last hurrah as a group because we went our separate ways after that.

The Festival took place at Innis Lake Campground, Caledon, Ontario, Canada, northwest of Toronto. This was a trip of over 110 miles. We set out in Ed’s Ford Galaxy and drove nonstop to the festival. As we got closer the traffic slowed down until we were barely crawling along. When we pulled into the site, we were directed to an empty field to park. I forget exactly what they charged us to park on the grass but I think it was five dollars.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the name ‘Mariposa’ was taken from Stephen Leacock’s book Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, in which the ‘little town,’ a thinly disguised Orillia, was called Mariposa. Orillia, Ontario was the site of the first Festival. It was held in Orillia for three years before being banned because of disturbances by festival-goers. After being held in various places in Ontario for a few decades, it returned to Orillia in 2000.

Travel between Canada and the US was much simpler then. We used to travel between our neighbors to the north occasionally. It was like a playground for adults. The border guard, when you entered Canada, would ask you where you were born and what your business in Canada was. If he liked your answer, you were waved through without a problem. If there was any question, all you needed was your driver’s license to verify your home of residence.

When you returned to the USA the guards on “our” side would ask if you had anything to declare. I remember one crossing when I couldn’t answer because I was passed out drunk in the back seat. I actually didn’t remember it but I was told about it by my buddies.

We wandered over to the stage area which was also set up in a field to watch the show. The Mariposa Folk Festival brought together a number of artists that year who are now musical legends. An article published in the July 15, 1967 issue of Billboard announced that performers that year would include Buffy Sainte-Marie who is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist.

Also playing was Tom Rush an American folk and blues singer, songwriter, musician and recording artist, the Staple Singers an American gospel, soul and R&B singing group, Bonnie Dobson a Canadian folk music songwriter, singer, and guitarist, most known in the 1960s for composing the songs “I’m Your Woman” and “Morning Dew”, The Buddy Guy Blues Band an American blues guitarist and singer from Chicago, Ritchie Havens an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Leonard Cohen a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist, Louis Killen an English folk singer, the Lily Brothers, bluegrass musicians from Clear Creek, West Virginia and Tex Logan from Coahoma, Texas, a bluegrass fiddler were there too.

The concert ended late at night so we opted to sleep in the car. We were all asleep when, at about 4:00 in the morning, there came a knock on the driver’s side window. Ed cranked down the window and were greeted by a less than friendly man who told us we couldn’t sleep there.

Ed started the car and because we were short of cash, we decided to drive home. We decided to take turns driving to avoid fatigue. This was our plan. Like the saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” John and John promptly fell asleep in the back seat and Ed and I had to wake them as we got to the border.

We never made it to another concert together, school, work and life got in the way of our freewheeling life style. The sixties were a mellow, laid back time and this is just one of the many adventures I had growing up then. I’m glad I have this memory of simpler times.

Norb is a writer from Lockport. He can be reached at