Summer of Love
A young hippie entertains onlookers with a dance during the Love-In at Toronto's Queen's Park. (Photo: Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Fifty years ago this year, Toronto hippies revelled in the Summer of Love. From the music to the clashes with cops, we look back on the summer of 1967 through the eyes of the people who lived it.

Cathy Young surveyed the crowd of about 5,000 floral-painted hippies, curious onlookers and the odd rock star—including members of Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead—splayed across Toronto's Queen's Park and knew exactly what song to play: Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Cod'ine."

At 16, it was the only tune she felt confident enough to perform at the city's first Love-In, held during the Victoria Day long weekend in 1967—an event in which even Leonard Cohen trekked up from New York to sing a few tunes, a flower tucked purposefully behind his ear.

Young prepared to take the stage as the announcement boomed over the loud speaker:

"Ladies and gentlemen, now we have a surprise guest artist…"

The teenager clutched her guitar. It was time.

"… Warner Bros. recording artist …"

Strange. She didn't have a Warner Bros. recording deal.

"Buffy Sainte-Marie!"

Without warning the Native Canadian singer entered to a chorus of cheers, prompting Young to alert event co-organizer Brian "Blues" Chapman of her plan to play the same Sainte-Marie tune.

"Blues looked at me and he said, 'You can always chicken out,'" Young, 66, remembers. So the undeterred teen, who eventually nabbed a Juno in 1974 for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year and a nomination for 1975's Female Artist of the Year, marched out onto the stage to follow Buffy Sainte-Marie's performance—with a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie. "What are you going to be afraid of after that?" she laughs today, recalling the afternoon, 50 years ago, that proved a watershed moment for both Young and Toronto itself, ushering in the defining cultural movement of a generation.

"That was the first sort of public flowering of hippie culture in Toronto," says Nicholas Jennings, author of the seminal Canadian music history tome Before the Gold Rush. "There was this cultural or generational gap between the hippies and the so-called straight Toronto culture … so the hippies really wanted to show the rest of Toronto that 'Hey, we're just like anybody else.'"

"I made these ponchos and we painted flowers on our faces and flowers on our knees and part of it was just running into people you knew and dancing," Linda R. Goldman, then 16 and attending with a friend, recalls. "We went to school after the Love-In with our knees still painted. It was fun though. It was fun being different."

Next: How it all began...

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