By John Swartz
Get ready for 2021 because there won’t be a Mariposa Folk Festival in July. Pam Carter, president of the festival and the Mariposa Folk Foundation, told SUNonline/Orillia the July 3, 4 and 5 festival will not be happening and there is no plan to move the date to late in the summer of early fall.
“We thought about it. We can’t host the festival in the fall. The caliber of artists that we have, we just couldn’t do the routing and bring them in as one-off,” Carter said.
While many people are stuck at home in a world moving slowly, on the COVID-19 front things are changing several times a day. Just two weeks ago Carter told SUNonline/Orillia the organizing group was still working toward having the festival at its usual time, but consulting with others daily.
“We’ve been in regular communication with public health and the other authorities, the festival communities, artist managers; public events around the world have been cancelled and it just didn’t seem viable to be able to host a festival July 3rd.”
One of the considerations was a significant part of the audience comes here from the United States, and things look unstable there and the border may not be open to tourist travel at that time. Even if it was, having a few thousand travellers come to Orillia might not be the best idea.
Another factor is even if stay at home regulations are lifted it is unlikely, based on comments from provincial and federal officials, gatherings of groups greater than 50 people will not be permitted.
“Even though the physical distancing might be lifted somewhat, festivals and sporting events will the last to come on board,” said Carter.
Festival publicist Gerry Hawes agrees things will not return to normal for festival and event organizers.
“There’s a very significant consensus everywhere that large gatherings will not be happening anytime in our near future. It extends past Mariposa weekend and beyond that for sure. Who knows exactly when it will end, but its’ not going to be soon,” said Hawes. It’s not just American tourists, some of the artists scheduled are from there, and further afield.
“We have a lot of international artists, just getting them here, we would have lost a lot of them if not all of them. There’s just no way of doing a festival in that time period,” said Hawes.
That said, the organizing committee is examining what they can do in the fall. They have their traditional Echoes of Mariposa concert (which might have to be temporarily renamed Faint Echoes) in which summer festival artists who created some buzz are invited back to town, and the spring Gospel and Blues concert.
“We are looking at other activities for sure. We’ll look at our concert season this winter and see what we can do with it, whether we amp it up and (have a) more robust concert season,” said Carter. Otherwise it’s on to next year.
“We’re planning for next year. The artistic director (Liz Scott) is contacting all the agents and managers and offering them a spot at Mariposa 2021. We’ll get a certain amount of uptake for that. We won’t get the full lineup, but there’s people who will return we’ve announced and we will be celebrating 60 years of music.”
This was to be the 60th anniversary of the occurrence of the festival, but since annual events aren’t counted the same as birthdays, there’s a bit of an out to call next year the 60th.
Every year the MFF produces a compilation album with many artists contributing their songs, that is still in the works and Carter said they will be making extra effort this year to make sure the public can buy it as soon as it’s available. The information will be posted on the MFF website, and SUNonline/Orillia’s weekly arts column will have details when it happens.
People who have bought tickets will have three options to consider.
“We’ll be doing a full refund for any patrons who want a refund for their tickets, or they’ll have a choice to keep their ticket until 2021,” said Carter. Ticket holders will be notified by email. The third option is to make ticket purchase a donation to the MFF.
Several years ago, following a particularly nasty storm which hit Tudhope Park, festival organizers decided to create a rainy day fund – just in case. They have set aside several hundred thousand dollars, Carter didn’t know the exact figure, and some of it is invested in stocks, which the markets have not been doing so well of late. There have been expenses they will have to eat this year.
“I haven’t got a figure in my head. Certainly supplies, we’ve got deposits out so that will be another negotiation. There’s all kinds of moving parts. We haven’t done our big spending, rented the trailers, bought the food, the kind of expenditures that would typically come in May and June. We still have tens of thousands of dollars out there for sure,” said Carter.
“We’re solvent. Not to say there won’t be some challenges moving forward, but we’re not at risk of disappearing.”
So we can look forward to something sometime in the fall, winter or spring depending on other developments.
“We look forward to seeing people in 2021, if not sooner,” said Carter.
This story will be updated when links for ticket disposition and CD availability are available.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)