‘Humbleness and generosity’: Head of the Mariposa Folk Foundation remembers Gordon Lightfoot

Pam Carter says when Gordon Lightfoot was spotted at Mariposa, there was a ripple that would go out across the audience

While the music industry and his fans embraced him, Pam Carter says Gordon Lightfoot was “Orillia’s own.”

Carter, who is president of the Mariposa Folk Foundation and festival organizing chair, says she first got to know Lightfoot when she became involved in the event 14 years ago.

The singer-songwriter died Monday evening in a Toronto hospital at the age of 84.

Carter says there were times Lightfoot was invited to perform at Mariposa and at other times during the festival he would just show up “with guitar in hand.”

“If he was invited to perform, he would show up with a driver in a Lincoln Town car, and if he was coming on his own, it was just whatever car he happened to be driving at the time.”

When Lightfoot was spotted at Mariposa, Carter says there was a ripple that would go out across the audience.

“That ripple also went out where all the artists were co-mingling,” she adds. “He was an icon in the industry, and they were in awe of being in his presence.”

Lightfoot’s relationship with the Mariposa Folk Festival dates back to 1961 when he applied to perform but was told he was too commercial and sounded too much like The Everly Brothers.

“That can’t be all bad, can it, to sound like the Everly Brothers?” Carter said, explaining how Lightfoot shared that story at the folk festival last year.

Carter figures Lightfoot performed at least 10 times since Mariposa returned to Orillia in 2000 after leaving the Sunshine City in 1963.

“Having Gord on the bill ensured Mariposa’s success for its first festival back in Orillia. He performed without a fee. We paid his band, but he performed without a fee and that just set Mariposa on the path to success back in Orillia.”

Carter says her familiarity with Lightfoot is also about his humbleness and generosity.

“One time he shows up at the festival, and he is in the parking lot tuning his guitar in the rearview window of his car because he doesn’t want to ask for a trailer or a space to tune his guitar.”

This year’s Mariposa Folk Festival is being held from July 7 to 9 and Carter says there will be tweaks to the event due to Lightfoot’s death but how that plays out is still being worked on in conjunction with the City of Orillia.

Banner image: Gordon Lightfoot performs during the first concert at the newly re-opened Massey Hall in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston