Miranda Mulholland launches Sawdust City Music Festival

T.O. musician goes back to Muskoka roots


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Miranda Mulholland

In recent years, the Muskoka musical tradition seemed to amount to the consumption of discounted Molson Canadian tall cans and another set of Kim Mitchell down at the venerable Kee to Bala. But tireless artistic explorer Miranda Mulholland is set to change all that with the launch of the Sawdust City Music Festival in Gravenhurst, Aug. 4 to 6. 

Turns out Mulholland, who performs with Soulpepper as well as the duo Harrow Fair and a few other musical projects, has deep roots in the official “gateway to Muskoka.” 

“My great-great-grandfather Charles Mickle was actually the mayor, twice, and he had a large sawmill up there, and that was how Gravenhurst became known as Sawdust City,” she explains. “He was very supportive of the arts and decided to put an opera house on the main street. People thought he was crazy, and they called it Mickle’s Folly. But 150 years later, it’s still there, and it has some of the best acoustics in Canada.”

The festival runs over a long weekend with venues scattered throughout town, including at the somewhat new Sawdust City Brewery and the Gravenhurst summer music barge.

The Saturday evening concert features headliners Jim Cuddy Band and Harrow Fair and will take place at the Opera House. Other artists participating in the festival include surf guitar band C&C Surf Factory (featuring Blue Rodeo guitarist Colin Cripps), along with Abigail Lapell, NQ Arbuckle, Benjamin Hermann, Justin Rutledge and more. 

“Gravenhurst has been a little overlooked,” says Mulholland. “It’s billed as the gateway to Muskoka, and people tend to shop by the highway and take off to their cottages. It’s gong to be amazing to put the spotlight on Gravenhurst.”

To that end, Mulholland supplied us with her top five local spots to check out while in town for the festival:

Curry’s Music. “My last time there I bought an old cookbook, violin strings, some vinyl and I think I bought a dress. They have everything in there. It’s amazing.” 

The Bakery. “They make these Chelsea buns, and they are the most delicious thing on the whole planet. My cousin used to swim over in the morning and swim back with them in a bag.” 

Peter’s Players. “It’s an intimate venue, and they get really big acts like Ron Sexsmith and Joel Plaskett.” 

The Segwun. “It’s a steamship, very famous. The Segwun is what Gravenhurst is known for and what we have on our beautiful poster. 

Oar and Paddle. “I love that place. One of the best restaurants in Muskoka by far.” 

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Ron Johnson is the editor of Post City Magazines. Follow him on Twitter @TheRonJohnson.

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