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Canadian music scene icon, Winnipeg Folk Fest founder Mitch Podolak dies

Mitch Podolak.
Mitch Podolak. Rodney Smith/Submitted

A giant in the local Winnipeg and Canadian music scene has died.

The West End Cultural Centre and Winnipeg Folk Fest have both confirmed that their founder, Mitch Podolak, has died.

“It is with profound sadness that we share of the passing of the founder of the West End Cultural Centre, Mitch Podolak,” the WECC posted on social media.

“Mitch was a lion of the Canadian music scene and generations of musicians owe a debt of gratitude to his hard work and ingenuity. Our love goes out to Ava and all of Mitch’s family and friends.”

Podolak was the founding artistic director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1974 and was instrumental in founding other festivals across Canada. He also helped found the West End Cultural Centre, which has been an iconic building for local music in Winnipeg ever since.

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He was also a founder of festivals in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and on the east coast.

In 2015, Podolak was made a member of the Order of Manitoba and also received an honourary doctorate from Brandon University.

The reaction online was swift and paid tribute to a man who championed music across the country.

Podolak’s son, Leonard, said on social media that his family would have a memorial.

“He was my hero, and he uplifted anyone who had an idea, good or bad, if they were passionate about it.

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“Creating festivals was his way of starting the Revolution. And what a revolution it has been.”