Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival
The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival is a yearly festival, held in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, and organized by a not-for-profit organization, during which hot air balloons of every shape and colour are flown and where 300 shows and performances adding up to over 60 hours’ worth of programming are taking place. More than 200,000 visitors and 1,000 RVs usually participate. It is held over four days in late-August and early September during the Labor Day Weekend.
- 1 History
- 2 Notable singing performers and attendance during the history of the festival
- 3 Other features of the festival
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Jean Boileau era and the festival's beginning (1988-2001)
The festival started in 1988 by Jean Boileau and attracted about 50 000 visitors and about 50 balloons. Through the following years the festival became much larger and was one of the biggest festivals in Canada. Attendance at one point reached over 225,000 people and had over 150 balloons. In 1998, the festival was also hosting the World Hot Air Airship Championship, which was disputed by 16 teams from Europe, China and the United States.
However, while it had continuous growth over the years, 2001 was the year that had transformed significantly the face and structure of the festival.
Fatal accident and festival departure (2001-2002)
On July 14, 2001, Boileau who was the general manager since its beginning was involved in a horrific hot-air balloon accident just east of the Ottawa International Airport on Leitrim Road. The balloon, while trying to land in an open field, struck some hydro wires after a sudden wind gust. It suddenly engulfed in flames. Boileau sustained multiple burns while trying to rescue his 15 year-old daughter, Julie, who was trapped inside the balloon's basket. Unfortunately, the rescue effort failed as the girl died instantly while two other people also sustained burns. Boileau, despite the fact that a subsequent Transport Canada report which mention that the accident was caused by a pilot error and bad weather conditions, was later honored by then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson for bravery. In 2007 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the La Baie Park for Boileau's daughter known as the festival's first volunteer and a tree was also planted on site in her honor in conjunction of the festival's 20th Anniversary which also honored the founder of the festival.
After that event, he never piloted a hot-air balloon and left his general manager spot of the Festival afterwards - some speculations were that the new city of Gatineau administration of Yves Ducharme tried to force him out of the job by offering a spot for the new city as chief of communications. He was handled that position for a few months during rehabilitation, but the position was later removed and changed as the position of director of communications and the City did not appointed him due to health reasons caused by his accident. Some speculated that the Ducharme administration wanted to remove people who were associated with the former city of Gatineau's last mayor, Robert Labine and Ducharme's mayoral rival in the 2001 elections for the new city of Gatineau. However, a settlement between the city and Boileau was made in 2003. The departure of Boileau had also put the Festival's future in doubt as several of his associates also left the Festival's organization.
Boileau is currently the communication director of the Université du Québec en Outaouais
The festival after the amalgamation of Gatineau (2002 to present)
In 2002, the new city of Gatineau was formed and immediately it announced changes which included a new logo and a significantly lower number of balloons that participated; 75 down from 125 in the prior year. The attendance remained steady in the post-Boileau era showing a very little if any drop attracting about 200,000 visitors.
While the festival had stability by having one general manager for its first 13 years. There were several others after Boileau's departure including former president of the festival and Gatineau councillor Paul Morin, followed by post-Boileau general managers Diane Chevrier and Daniel Simoncic, Fernand Lavoie and Francois Grenier. Brigitte Michaud is the general manager since 2009.
Also, well known local businessman Martin Lacasse was president for several years but left in April 2006. Alain Fredette became the new president in 2006. Finally, Yves Ducharme was defeated in the 2005 municipal elections by fellow councillor Marc Bureau. The 2006 edition was held with a new president, general manager and city mayor. The Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007 along with 230 000 festival-goers. The Festival has since welcomed many internationally known artists and keeps on renewing itself each year.
Notable singing performers and attendance during the history of the festival
Several well-known artists performed during the Festival over the course of its history since 1988. Among those included:
- 1988 : 34 000 festival-goers - Show by Nuance
- 1989 : 90 000 festival-goers. Show by Céline Dion and Pierre Flynn.
- 1990 : 110 000 festival-goers. Show by Mitsou and Paul Piché.
- 1991 : 150 000 festival-goers. Show by Daniel Lavoie, André-Philippe Gagnon, Marjo and Vilain Pingouin.
- 1992 : 170 000 festival-goers. Show by Richard Séguin, Luc De Larochellière, Céline Dion and Les B.B.
- 1993 : 185 000 festival-goers. Show by Robert Charlebois, Ginette Reno, Alannah Myles and Julie Masse.
- 1994 : 200 000 festival-goers. Show by France D'Amour, Claude Dubois, Édith Butler, Gilles Vigneault and Roch Voisine.
- 1995 : 200 000 festival-goers. Show by Marjo, Sonia Benezra, Mitsou, Mario Pelchat, Jim Corcoran, Sylvain Cossette, Michaël Rancourt, Éric Lapointe and Gildor Roy.
- 1996 : 225 000 festival-goers. Show by Robert Charlebois, André-Philippe Gagnon, Marie Carmen and Kevin Parent.
- 1997 : 225 000 festival-goers. Show by Richard Séguin, Dan Bigras, Anthony Kavanagh, Gipsy Kings and Soul Attorneys.
- 1998 : 200 000 festival-goers. Show by Claude Dubois, Dubmatique, Luce Dufault, Jonny Lang, Kevin Parent and Sylvain Cossette.
- 1999 : 200 000 festival-goers. Show by Dubmatique, Bruno Pelletier, Corey Hart and Jean Leloup.
- 2000 : 200 000 festival-goers. Show by Zachary Richard, Marjo, Éric Lapointe, La Chicane, Pierre Lalonde and Richard Abel.
- 2001 : 200 000 festival-goers. Show by Luck Mervil, Sylvain Cossette, Bruno Pelletier, Okoumé, Fernand Gignac and Annie Brocoli.
- 2002 : festival-goers. Show by Alain Choquette, Gabrielle Destroismaisons, Mario Pelchat, Boom Desjardins, Richard Séguin and Stéphane Rousseau.
- 2003 : Show by Roch Voisine, Daniel Bélanger, Bob Walsh, Lulu Hugues, Yelo Molo and les Respectables.
- 2004 : 200 000 festival-goers. Show by Daniel Boucher, Nanette Workman, Marie-Chantal Toupin, Laurence Jalbert, Mélanie Renaud, Andrée Watters, Bruno Pelletier, Gino Vannelli, La Bottine Souriante and Martin Giroux.
- 2005 : Show by Boom Desjardins, Éric Lapointe, Hugo Lapointe, Martin Deschamps, Florent Vollant, Michel Pagliaro, Marie-Chantal Toupin, Luck Mervil, Vincent Vallières, Émily Bégin, Marie-Mai, Nicola Ciccone and the Boogie Wonder Band.
- 2006 : 170 000 festival-goers. Show by Simple Plan, Stéphanie Lapointe, Annie Villeneuve, Véronic DiCaire, Marjo, Garou and les Cowboys Fringants.
- 2007 : 230 000 festival-goers. Show by Dan Bigras, Bruno Pelletier, Compagnie Créole, Alfa Rococo, Eva Avila, Kaïn, Champion et ses G-Strings, Lulu Hugues, Andrée Watters, Marie-Chantal Toupin, Elizabeth Blouin-Brathwaite and Kim Richardson.
- 2008 : 190 000 festival-goers. Show by Finger Eleven, Marie-Élaine Thibert, Boom Desjardins, Jamil, France Maisonneuve, Xavier Caféïne, Dennis DeYoung, Pascale Picard and Gregory Charles.
- 2009 : 255 000 festival-goers. Show by Mes Aïeux, Kenny Rogers, Ariane Moffatt, Marie-Mai and Éric Lapointe. Spokesperson: Patrice Bélanger
- 2010 : 175 000 festival-goers – Show by Bobby Bazini, Our Lady Peace, Hedley, Laurence Jalbert, Johanne Blouin, France D’Amour, Luce Dufault, Jesse Cook, Sylvain Cossette, Bruno Pelletier, Dan Bigras and Les Cowboys Fringants.
Other features of the festival
- Seven lift-offs by hot air balloons from every corner of the world, including several special shapes
- Four evenings of shows featuring top artists on the main stage
- Three stages with performances for families and the public at large
- Night Glow
- Pit stop with games and picnic areas
- International calibre Strength Athletes Championship
- Spectacular fireworks show
- Magic Circus
- The largest amusement park in the Outaouais
- Extreme sports demonstrations
- More than 300 shows and performances
- The second biggest RV gathering in Quebec
The festival is also the venue for the annual North American Strongmen Competition that features six competitors from Canada and six competitors from the United States. The competition is organized by Gatineau’s former policeman Hugo Girard who won the event several times to reach the world championship finals.
- Festival des Montgolfieres de Gatineau. "History of the Festival". Retrieved 2007-09-01.
- Duquette, Patrick (July 16, 2001). "Une jeune fille meurt dans une nacelle en feu". Le Droit. p. 12.
- Plante, Jean-Francois (January 15, 2003). "Jean Boileau n'aurait pas respecté les procédures de vol, affirme le BST". Le Droit. p. 2.
- Duqette, Patrick (June 14, 2003). "Jean Boileau reçoit la médaille de la bravoure". Le Droit. p. 5.
- Radio Canada (August 31, 2007). "Que la Fete commence". Radio-Canada.
- Le Droit (August 31, 2001). "Une 20e édition du Festival de montgolfières remplie d'émotions". p. 5.
- Larocque, Sylvain (July 10, 2002). "Gatineau se défend d'avoir voulu "tasser" Jean Boileau". Le Droit. p. 5.
- Le Droit (February 25, 2003). "Boileau : la bataille se fait sur l'occupation de son poste". p. 4.
- Theriault, Charles (January 11, 2002). "Le Festival de montgolfières en péril". Le Droit. p. 3.