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It was a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Quebec Winter Carnival.
During a recent press trip, we got an exclusive behind the scenes look at the Quebec Winter Carnival. As you can imagine, there are preparations all year long for the biggest and most famous festival in the city. Today is the first day of the event this year! It runs from January 29th to February 14th, 2016. To celebrate the beginning of the Quebec Winter Carnival, we’re taking you on a tour to show you some of the planning that goes into putting on a festival of this size.
Our tour was led by the main mascot himself, Bonhomme Carnaval. He’s truly the face of the Winter Carnival. When you think about the festival, I’m sure that Bonhomme comes to mind. He was very jolly, funny, and a great guide. After all, who knows how to celebrate the winter better than Bonhomme?
A Brief History
If you haven’t heard of the Quebec Winter Carnival, you’re likely wondering…what is it, and who is this snowman? Well, this is an annual winter festival in Quebec City. It started back in 1894, and it’s happened every year consecutively since 1955. Bonhomme made his first appearance in 1955, and now he would never miss it. Over a million people attend the Winter Carnival, making it one of the biggest celebrations of winter in the world. The festival has something for people of all ages, with activities and events happening all day and night. Be sure to pack your winter gear and enjoy playing in the snow!
Activities and Events
Here are a list of the activities that you don’t want to miss:
- Day and night parades, led by Bonhomme
- International snow sculpture competition
- Ice canoe race – teams cross the partially frozen St. Lawrence River through snow and ice
- Snow bath – be brave, wear your bathing suit, and roll around in the snow!
- Bonhomme’s ice palace – a castle made of ice
- Ride down the ice slide at Plains of Abraham
- Ice skating
- Introductory snowboarding lessons for kids
- Ice hockey
- Drink Caribou, the official beverage of the Carnival (we got to try some – wowzas, it’s strong!)
- Winter symphony musical performance
Essentially, if there’s a way to have fun in the wintertime, you’ll be able to find it at Carnaval de Québec!
Behind the Scenes
As you can imagine, there’s a lot of work and magic at play behind the scenes at the Quebec Winter Carnival. From designing the parade floats to sewing all of the costumes, employees are hard at work even months ahead of the festival. All of these important components are constructed in a large warehouse space. It is truly a winter wonderland there, except it’s indoors and there isn’t any snow (unless you count the giant snowflakes on the walls). We walked from one space to the next, marveling at all of the detailed handiwork that goes into designing and creating each piece from scratch.
Bonhomme gave each of us a gift that happens to be a part of his costume: an arrowed sash. or ceinture fléchée. It’s the blue, white, and red sash around my waist in the photos. It is a traditional piece of 19th century French-Canadian clothing, originally borrowed from the indigenous peoples. It was typically used to fasten men’s jackets around their waists to keep the cold from entering. It was both practical and fashionable. Bonhomme famously sports the arrowed sash, and these are also sold at the Winter Carnival.
The Winter Carnival takes place in Quebec City from January 29th – February 14th, 2016. You can find all of the details at the official website.
Have you ever been to the Quebec Winter Carnival?