Saskatoon

'A long time coming': Joni Mitchell honoured in her hometown of Saskatoon

Joni Mitchell, 74, watched a livestream of the plaque unveilings Sunday at her home with tea and scones.

Mitchell, 74, watched a livestream of the plaque unveilings Sunday at her home with tea and scones

A plaque on Broadway Avenue commemorates Joni Mitchell's musical beginnings in Saskatoon. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Saskatoon landmarks on both sides of the South Saskatchewan River now pay tribute to music icon and former city resident Joni Mitchell.

The Grammy-winning songstress was honoured in her hometown Sunday with the unveiling of two plaques and the naming of a prominent walkway along the riverside as the Joni Mitchell Promenade.

"This has been a long time coming," said former premier and emcee Lorne Calvert, adding that the location of the promenade is perfect because Mitchell wanted it to be a place that's "accessible to everybody."

Things kicked off at the Broadway Theatre for the first plaque unveiling.

The crowd assembled for Sunday's first plaque unveiling, in front of The Broadway Theatre. Mitchell played a coffee house next door when she lived in the city in the early 1960s. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The Broadway is located next door to a long-gone venue, the Louis Riel Coffee House, where Mitchell played her first paid gig and performed the ukulele on Hoot Nights in the early 1960s, according to the biography on her official website. 

City councillor Cynthia Block and local heritage advocate Ken Achs unveiled the plaque. 

Mitchell, 74, was not present but was said to be enjoying a livestream of the event at her home with tea and scones.

Fans went up to the livestream camera to say a quick hello. 

A Mitchell fan, right, says hello to Mitchel, who was watching a livestream of the event being captured by the cameraperson, left. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Then the crowd walked or was bussed down the Broadway Bridge to River Landing, where the second plaque is located. 

On the way down, I rant into Dianne Scaddan, who went to school with Mitchell and felt Sunday's events were a fitting tribute to her former schoolmate.

The route walked by Scaddan and others was meant to mirror the same one taken by Mitchell when she lived in the city.

"She actually used to continue on quite often to Riversdale Pool," said Aviva Kohen, director of media at Tourism Saskatoon, of Mitchell's walk through the area during some of her formative years in the city.

"[She said] it had the best jukebox in the city."

Things moved indoors at the Persephone Theatre while the second plaque remained covered up outside, due to the threat of rain — which never came.

A second plaque by the South Saskatchewan River had to be covered due to the threat of rain. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"We'd hoped to be outside. But this is Saskatchewan," joked Calvert.

Inside, a band played Mitchell mainstays such as Both Sides Now.

The Wild Horse Drum Group from North Battleford — where Mitchell's family lived before moving to Saskatoon when she was 9 — performed an honour song for her.

Mayor Charlie Clark talked about Mitchell's song The Circle Game, its "carousel of seasons" and what the song meant to him. 

"It's been 56 times times around the seasons since Joni Mitchell played at the Louis Riel Coffee House," he said. 

And with that, the walkway was pronounced the Joni Mitchell Promenade. 

City councillors unanimously approved the naming of the Joni Mitchell Promenade, by the riverfront, last April. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

City councillors unanimously approved the naming of the promenade in April, capping years of efforts by Saskatoon to further honour the singer and one-time city resident.

Below, a brief history:

Joni Mitchell and Saskatoon: A History

Saskatchewan

3 years ago
2:13
Joni Mitchell and Saskatoon: A History 2:13

You can revisit our live blog of Sunday's tribute below. Don't see it? Click here.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now