Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
ORILLIA — Fred Penner may know your kids better than you.
He certainly understands what makes them tick — talk, sing, jump and shout.
And he did all that at the Mariposa Folk Festival, along with fellow iconic Canadian kids entertainers Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison.
The three starred back-to-back Saturday at the Sunshine Stage Folk Play tent at 1 and 2 p.m.
For the audience of more than 150, many of the moms and dad — and grandparents — the had grown up listening, learning and being minded and tended to for countless hours every day on TV and on cassette tape.
The three singer-songwriters and entertainers have aged gently with their legion of fans, from 1984 when Penner appeared on the Sharon, Lois and Bram TV show the Elephant’s Trunk.
Later in the evening, Sharon (Hampson), Lois (Lilienstein) and Bram were inducted in the Mariposa Hall of Fame, along with the Travellers and Owen McBride.
Lois Lilienstein died in 2015.
Penner, 72, who looks like a friendly grandfather now with a great big beard that would make Santa blush, had everyone singing along to classic children’s songs, including his (Harry S. Miller’s 1893 standard) earliest hit with The Cat Came Back that launched his career in the late 1970s.
Penner got his start growing up in Winnipeg, playing guitar, singing and making up songs to entertain his sister, Susan, who has Down syndrome.
But his folk roots were cut in the mid-sixties, during the protest era.
So, while he put on an always fun set aimed at toddlers and their caregivers, at both the Kids Play area of the festival, and again at the Main Stage Sunday, it was at the intimate Ruth Stage Saturday afternoon where it was best to hear him.
With Shakura S’Aida, Christine Lavin and Richard Flohill he belted out protest songs about Vietnam that he cut his folkie teeth on.
The billing was War Stories and Mariposa proved they weren’t on the eve of destruction after all.
That’s one of the great parts about Mariposa, the surprises you find behind the Main Stage or nestled under another canopy surrounded by knowledgeable and appreciative music lover — and many converts to the acoustic sounds.
Nightime headliners like the return of Tom Cochrane and Red Ryder Saturday could be heard from one side of Tudhope Park to the other and halfway across Lake Couchiching and into Atherley parts of and Rama.
And some fans love to now be able to dance in front of the stage (though not all).
It’s the fluid face of Mariposa.
Local legend Gord Lightfoot made his annual, if not scheduled but regular, appearance. This time into the evening, rather than late in the afternoon
He sang If You Could Read My Mind, which no doubt many wondered what he would make of the festival he has helped popularize since his first hometown appearance in 1961.
With Indigenous performers and even hip hop on the bill, it was three days of preaching to the converted and baptizing babes in the musical woods.