Photo of Miranda Mulholland and friends courtesy Muskoka Music Festival
Bryan Dearsley takes a look at the 2023 Muskoka Music Festival and the event’s much-anticipated return to cottage country
The 2023 edition of the Muskoka Music Festival comes to Gravenhurst this August and promises to cement the town’s already impressive reputation as a center for great music events.
Conceived by acclaimed singer-songwriter and Roaring Girl Records owner Miranda Mulholland, the festival continues to garner attention thanks to its roster of top Canadian musical talent. Headlining this year is award-winning Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt, with other acts including a much-anticipated performance by JUNO Award-nominated, award-winning, and internationally renowned contemporary folk artist Dayna Manning.
Mulholland, an internationally acclaimed performer herself, has once again tapped into her family roots and brings a stellar list of big names to the heart of Muskoka for the three-day festival that takes place from August 18th to 20th.
Gravenhurst to Host the Muskoka Music Festival 2023
It’s not surprising that Mulholland’s first choice as the location for the return of this momentous cultural festival celebrating Canada’s raw, eclectic, and ever-changing music scene was the Town of Gravenhurst.
In addition to receiving the green light for that first festival, then known as the Sawdust City Music Festival, from the local government back in 2017, Mulholland also received (and continues to receive) a great deal of support from Canada’s leading musical talent.
Said Jim Cuddy at the time: “There is nothing more rewarding than supporting young entrepreneurs in this often-harsh music biz. I love Miranda’s talent for performing music, and now I get to experience her talent for creating a great community event.”
Continued Cuddy: “Muskoka holds a special place in my heart with summer days at my aunt’s cottage or out in boats cruising slowly around the beautiful lakes with my teenage friends.”
The Gravenhurst Connection
Ask Mulholland “Why Gravenhurst?” and she’s quick to share the story of her deep local roots. Her great-great-grandfather, Charles Mickle, owned the lumber mill that was to give the town its nickname of Sawdust City. Twice voted Gravenhurst’s mayor, it was, perhaps fittingly, also Mickle who commissioned the construction of the town’s iconic Opera House.
It seemed quite natural, says Mulholland, to celebrate this heritage at the same time as supporting Canadian music while providing visitors to the region with a unique musical experience.
“When I created my record label, I had a hypothetical festival in mind,” she says. “A festival that celebrated collaboration, cross-genre, and musicianship, the cornerstones of the label. It is beyond my wildest dreams that it’s actually happening now and in Gravenhurst.”
Mulholland goes on to share a little of her own experiences of Gravenhurst, and why it holds such a special place in her heart.
“This town has been my favourite spot for my entire life. I was brought there in utero! My great great grandfather believed in the power of the arts when he had the Opera House built on the main street. It was called ‘Mickle’s Folly’ at the time, but it is still going strong after 115 years. I’m so excited to be reinforcing his testament to the necessity of music, art, and culture in our society with the 2023 Muskoka Music Festival.”
To say community and culture are very important to Mulholland is an understatement; cultural engagement in the arts is her life. Which is just one of the reasons why Mulholland and her team at the Muskoka Music Festival have recently taken over the popular Dockside Festival of the Arts.
“It was the perfect opportunity to integrate music in a significant way into the already popular artisan village,” says Mulholland. “Now we can celebrate the past and future of Gravenhurst at the Muskoka Wharf as well as in the downtown core.”
Great Canadian Talent at the 2023 Muskoka Music Festival
In addition to Loreena McKennitt, the list of names that will grace the three-day festival includes a jaw-dropping line-up of other acts, including:
Alex Pangman & The Sweet Hots
Highway 11 Corridor Ukulele Players
Tickets for the festival, as well as full details, are now available at www.muskokamusicfestival.com.
Where to Stay: Make a Weekend of it!
If you’re looking to make a weekend getaway out of your participation in the Muskoka Music Festival, check out these highly recommended hotels in Gravenhurst. All are located a short distance away from the Gravenhurst Opera House, the scene of much of the action.
Muskoka Bay Resort
Brought to you by the new owners of Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville and Horseshoe Valley in Barrie, Muskoka Bay Resort boasts luxurious condo-style accommodations overlooking a championship 18-hole golf course. Amenities include an elegant clifftop clubhouse, fitness center, tennis courts, and hiking trails.
Reviews, Rates, & Reservations: Muskoka Bay Resort
Marriott Residence Inn
Located on Muskoka Bay and just steps away from the Muskoka Discovery Centre and the historic RMS Segwunsteamship, Marriott Residence Inn offers large, comfortable units, some with kitchens, fireplaces, and lake views. Amenities include a hot tub, an indoor swimming pool, an exercise room, and ample parking.
Reviews, Rates, & Reservations: Marriott Residence Inn
Taboo Muskoka Resort & Golf
In addition to its popular golf course, Taboo Muskoka Resort boasts its own private beach for guests to enjoy. Classy accommodations feature private patios or balconies and fireplaces, and your stay includes a buffet-style breakfast. The Boathouse restaurant features classic cottage fare with great views over Lake Muskoka.
Reviews, Rates, & Reservations: Taboo Muskoka
Bayview Wildwood Resort
A 20-minute drive south of Gravenhurst Opera House in Severn Bridge, Bayview Wildwood Resort is one of the most popular family resorts in Ontario. Set overlooking Sparrow Lake, Bayview Wildwood features a mix of rooms, suites, and even stand-alone cottages for guests to enjoy. Amenities include an on-site waterfront restaurant, a beach, a swimming pool, as well as boat and ATV rentals. Organized kid’s programs are also available.
Reviews, Rates, & Reservations: Bayview Wildwood
Howard Johnson by Wyndham Gravenhurst
Featuring modest, no-frill rooms, Howard Johnson by Wyndham Gravenhurst is worth checking into for those seeking a good budget stay with clean, comfortable rooms. This budget Gravenhurst hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the Opera House.
Reviews, Rates, & Reservations: Howard Johnson by Wyndham Gravenhurst
Other Places to Stay in Muskoka
For more great ideas of places to stay in cottage country, check out the following articles on LuxuryMuskoka:
Editor-in-chief Bryan Dearsley is a Gravenhurst, Muskoka, resident
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