As the sun sets on the Mariposa Folk Festival, I wonder where the three days have gone. Just the other day I was setting up camp with Twila next to grassy patch near a baseball diamond in Tudhope Park. I knew the festival culture was upon us when I could hear the quiet strumming of a few acoustic guitars at the campsite. A baby on a tarp playing with an array of plastic toys as his mother arranged the coolers and a metallic thud came from his father hammering in the tent pegs to secure their family sized tent. This site would be our temporary home for the weekend.
Lining up at the festival gate to get into the grounds for Mainstage, the sensation that was immediately prevalent was this sense of calm.
“What is going on?!” Twila asks me in disbelief.
There was no frenzied 7 AM color lottery to set up a tarp, no snaking lines out into the parking lot, just smiles from the festival volunteers and courteous patrons. A mini utopia created for a few days with great music, friendly people, sunshine, and a festival site bordered by the lake. There were also many activities for families with children. It was lovely to see children running around in their barefeet with woven wreaths in their hair, wading into the shallow waters of the lake to cool off, and and peeling off corkscrew segments of a Tornado Potato.
I felt calm in this idyllic atmosphere. I would often set up my chair under the shaded canopy of trees to work on my iPad while enjoying the breeze from the lake and the musical tinkering from children at the musical petting zoo. Every volunteer I met was so friendly, whether they were helping to sort through my compostable trash or find me areas with charging stations for my electronics. It felt like I could do no wrong as a guest. Not once was I told to vacate an area I shouldn’t be in or have my ID and bag checked at security. I was even allowed in the backstage performer area to work on my laptop because I was sporting a golden ticket wristband. It gives me a glimpse into a classless society and how it works when its community is united in this vision. All the staff, volunteers, vendors, artists, audience members – they’re all working together to produce something greater than themselves: a safe haven for music and people. Mitch Podoluk mentioned that Mariposa is his hometown festival and I can see why.
I really shouldn’t have been surprised at how quickly Twila and I were accepted into this community. All we brought with us on our 2.5 day commute was an open mind and memories of how other folk festivals function. My folk festival crowd survival instinct was subdued and attending Mariposa felt more like a vacation than anything else. There is a chill energy that comes from rolling out of a tent, successfully washing ones hair from a water bottle, grabbing a breakfast frittata from a foodtruck, and sauntering over to a workshop stage by 11 AM. I’m glad Mariposa has been able to return home to Orillia after being hosted at other locations throughout Ontario. Orillia has something really special and I’m glad I got to be a part of its world for the past few days.