Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival

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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.


Filling balloons for the festival
Balloon riding during the 2005 Festival

Jean Boileau era and the festival's beginning (1988-2001)[edit]

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.

Fatal accident and festival departure (2001-2002)[edit]

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.[1] 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,[2] was later honored by then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson for bravery.[3] 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.[4][5]

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.[6] The departure of Boileau had also put the Festival's future in doubt as several of his associates also left the Festival's organization.[7][8]

Boileau is currently the communication director of the City of Gatineau since October 2013 [9]

Notable singing performers and attendance during the history of the festival[edit]

Several well-known artists performed during the Festival over the course of its history since 1988. Among those included:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duquette, Patrick (July 16, 2001). "Une jeune fille meurt dans une nacelle en feu". Le Droit. p. 12. 
  2. ^ Plante, Jean-Francois (January 15, 2003). "Jean Boileau n'aurait pas respecté les procédures de vol, affirme le BST". Le Droit. p. 2. 
  3. ^ Duqette, Patrick (June 14, 2003). "Jean Boileau reçoit la médaille de la bravoure". Le Droit. p. 5. 
  4. ^ Radio Canada (August 31, 2007). "Que la Fete commence". Radio-Canada. 
  5. ^ Le Droit (August 31, 2001). "Une 20e édition du Festival de montgolfières remplie d'émotions". p. 5. 
  6. ^ Larocque, Sylvain (July 10, 2002). "Gatineau se défend d'avoir voulu "tasser" Jean Boileau". Le Droit. p. 5. 
  7. ^ Le Droit (February 25, 2003). "Boileau : la bataille se fait sur l'occupation de son poste". p. 4. 
  8. ^ Theriault, Charles (January 11, 2002). "Le Festival de montgolfières en péril". Le Droit. p. 3. 
  9. ^ [1]

External links[edit]