Peter Gzowski, on the swingingest young people's party of the year: When 20,000 young songsters descended on the 15,000 citizens of Orillia, Ont., for the third annual Mariposa Festival of folk singing—if that's what it was.
IF YOU ARE (a) the parent of a teenager, or (b) a resident of Orillia, Ont., or (c) a folk-song cultist who likes his hey - nonny - nonnies unadulterated by fun, you will be pleased to know that the fourth annual Mariposa Folk Festival next year will be a little different from the one held this year. If, on the other hand, you arc young, like to sing and/or feel the need to blow off steam around mid-August, you will receive the news with gloom.
I his year's festival was a blast,
man. Attendance, some twenty thousand. was more than the two previous years combined. The trouble was the attendance included a few dozen of the kind of black-jacketed motorcyclists who like to roar their engines louder and squarer than the Norman Luboff Choir, a few thousand people who couldn't give less of a fa-la-la for folk music, and not enough cops to keep the kids from having a slightly better time than most of their parents would have approved.
What was not noted by all the newspapers who hooted about booze and broads — and helped convince the festival’s organizers that they’d better make some changes — was that along with the swinging times there was some pretty swinging music. On the next four pages is a words-and-pictures record of both sides of the weekend-long whoop that hit a peaceful little Ontario city this summer.
Where the music comes from
THE SINGING at Mariposa started on Friday night about 8.30 p.m. and scarce!)' stopped all weekend. The question that troubled a Saturday afternoon panel of experts was: was it folk singing? By the strictest definition, no. To be real folksingers. the Mariposa artists would have had to sing only songs they'd learned from their own traditions. Of them all, only Jacques Labrecque. the stoutish pixie from Quebec, did that. The rest sang material they’d learned at their mother's gramophone.
Labrecque, it should be noted, was the festival's least successful entertainer: after stretching his act out to nearly an hour — by the end of which he had some kids at the outer reaches of the crowd singing Jingle Belts against him — he came off the stage convinced that fans in Ontario just don't like French Canadians. (My own most boring moments, however, came during the performance of a different kind of singer: Stu Phillips. “Canada's Travelin' Balladecr,” a cowboy from Montreal who says things like. “Well. Ah'll be doahgoaned," and “Haow many here from Winnipeg?" He also follows that rugged old western tradition of having a bass-player on his right flank, w'hich must have been difficult for the bass-player come round-up time.)
When rea! wild ones move in
MOST OF THE FOLK FANS Came tO
Orillia by bus or car. and a couple of youngsters even walked the eighty-one miles from Toronto. But on Saturday afternoon, word flashed around that some motorcycles with labeled black jackets (LANCERS: WILD ONES M.C.) had roared in. For a while things looked pretty menacing, and festival officials and police began to worry about a full-scale brawl. At one point, four motorcyclists parked their bikes abreast on Mississaga. the main street, and no one was bold enough to move them along.
But all stayed relatively calm. The most rambunctious activities of the afternoon were a few ad-lib hootenannies downtown and some extra action around the parade.
Orillia has a curious attitude toward the festival. Although it does not hesitate to accept the money of the folkniks — and if each of the twenty thousand spent only ten dollars all weekend, someone made money — the city made the festival management pay for the extra police that were required. A few Orillians pitched in willingly with the work of the festival, and some houseow'ners opened their homes (six dollars for the weekend was a common rate), but many of the townsfolk w'ere downright hostile, and — except for the partying youngsters — no one in Orillia seemed in a festival mood.
Orillia proper was spared the noisiest parties; when the evening concerts were over, most of the visitors poured out to Silver Sleeve Park, a camping ground about twelve miles from town.
The action really started after the concerts were over. On Frlday and Saturday night, parties raged at Silver Sleeve park, twelve miles from Otillia.
How the blasts start
i OK A WHILE at Silver Sleeve park, the camping grounds where the Mariposa Festival activities moved after midnight, 1 thought 1 had died and gone to hell. Everywhere, there were ghostly, glassy-eyed, lost-looking teenagers, many of the girls in Bermuda shorts despite the cold, many of the boys in college jackets. (“Hey, man, McGill eh?” “Yeah." “What year y’in?” “Last.” “Last of four?” “Last of five.” “Gee-eez. An old bastard.”) There were thousands of them, wandering aimlessly or huddled into groups of anywhere from two to fifty. The parties went on through the night.
The In thing to have was a guitar slung over your back, and a bottle — beer or liquor — open in your hand. A couple of the more enterprising youngsters had their own
(d fresco bootlegging businesses going. Others collected empties. Two boys huddled under ponchos, playing chess.
The park was policed by men hired by the festival, while the Ontario Provincial Police lurked outside, waiting to round up anyone who tried to take his carousing back to town. There wouldn't have been a jail in Orillia big enough to hold the arrestees if they'd ever come in. When someone did get too drunk in town during the festival, he was usually locked up long enough to clear his head, then thrown out to make room.
Originally, Silver Sleeve was to have been the site of a mammoth, all-night hootenanny, where folksingers, taking turns in the spotlight, would exchange songs. But some-
one forgot to hook up a spotlight, not to mention a sound system, and the only alternative was a number of little hootenannies. Early on, many of these small groups played and sang folk songs, but by about three o’clock the folksiest song to be heard was Goodnight. Irene.
Except that it was bigger, and the participants were younger — I'm sure I wasn’t that young when I was nineteen — the big blow-out at Silver Sleeve. 1 thought, could have been any one of the very good parties 1 remember from when country music was still square. Oh. maybe this one was a little wilder just because of its size. It would certainly be something to be talked over with relish in the sophomore dorms this fall. And it was no place for an adult. ★
What the singers do
A FEW of the professional singers made their wav out to Silver Sleeve on Friday night, the festival's first, to see if their services would he required for the entertainment. But. as one of them said the next morning. “you couldn't get onto the platform for heer bottles." So on Saturday night, when the concert was done, the pros had a little bash of their own. It provided, as far as one tired critic was concerned, the weekend's most enjoyable moments.
For the better part of two hours, Ian (Tyson) and Sylvia (Fricher), Canada's fast-rising young recording stars, jammed blue-grass and country music, accompanied by Eric Hord, their regular banjoand guitar-man and another guitarpicker and singer from Toronto named John Smith. Michel Choquette, a young singer from Montreal, joined in occasionally by making a sort of whistle out of his cupped hands. The careful arrangements that led some cultists to accuse these young performers of that worst of sins, “commercialism," were thrown out the window, and they sang country classics like Salty Dog as iong and as loud and as freely as they pleased. Crazy.
Around three, Ian and Sylvia, who were due to sing at a special church service, left. Shortly after that another banjo player arrived and the music started up again.
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