​Fred Penner Island Stage, Guelph ON, July 26

​Fred Penner Island Stage, Guelph ON, July 26
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
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In what was by far the most nostalgic set of the weekend, beloved Canadian children's performer Fred Penner took the Island Stage on Sunday afternoon (July 26). Following a touching tribute to his late mother during the Sunday Gospel Session on the same stage earlier that morning, Penner's solo set was a much more lighthearted affair. Kids — mostly at heart, but also in age — packed the tent, showing off the impressive array of generations that have a connection to Penner's music.
 
While the Monty Python and Pete Seeger references may have gone over the earphone-protected heads of the youngsters, there was plenty of feel-good music, hand gestures and smiles to keep them entertained. Pedagogical, but not preachy, Penner managed to send out important lessons about not littering, humility and simply being nice to each other, in the form of simple, catchy, sing-along tunes.
 
One of the biggest sing-alongs of the set was Penner lunchtime classic "Sandwiches" — for which he enlisted the help of a veteran Hillside attendee and his puppy puppet to play tambourine. "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Home on the Range" also left no onlooker silent, as the bearded, hat-wearing singer and his electric guitarist sidekick Paul O'Neill helped everyone join in.

After sharing with the audience a trilingual Navajo greeting about letting sunshine into your heart, Penner closed out his time on stage with a performance of "The Cat Came Back" that created as many new memories as it summoned nostalgic ones. Plus, it gave a sea of adults an excuse to stand up, let loose and meow along with the childhood hero on stage.