Mitch at home at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Photo: Rodney Smith
Mitch at home at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Photo: Rodney Smith

RIP: Canadian Folk Visionary Mitch Podolak

The father and inspiration behind many of Canada’s annual folk festivals, Mitch Podolak died late Sunday night at St. Boniface hospital in Winnipeg, son Leonard Podolak confirmed on his Facebook page. He was 71 and is reported to have died died from complications related to septic shock.

Podolak was a legend in the community he helped foster and build, having spent 55 years in the folk music business. A co-founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, he was also a formative figure in helping launch festivals in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and to the east in Canso, NS, and Owen Sound, ON.  He also helped create the Winnipeg International Children's Festival, Winnipeg's West End Cultural Centre and other staples in the music community.

He began his career at the Bohemian Embassy Coffee House in Toronto in the early 1960s. In the late 1960s, he worked with CBC Radio as a freelance documentary maker and hosted the CBC's Simply Folk radio program from 1987 to 1991.  In later years he helped to kick-start the not-for-profit Home Routes concerts in private homes network that now has son Leonard serving as executive producer.

In 2015, Mitch Podolak received the Order of Manitoba.

His son Leonard said the family will hold a memorial for his father in the future.

– A more in-depth history of Mitch and his connection to Canada’s folk community will follow.

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