One of the reasons our class trip to Quebec had been planned for February was to experience its Carnival. Behind only Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, Quebec City’s annual celebration of the pre-Lent festivities is the third largest in the world, and of course with a decidedly different spin. Canada gets very cold in the winter and while many of us would prefer to keep inside during those harsh temperatures, Canadians seem to embrace them.
This year, Quebec’s Winter Carnival began on January 28th and concluded on February 13th, the weekend that we were there. The sixteen day celebration is filled with all sorts of outdoor winter activities that attract approximately a million people to the city every year. Having arrived towards the end of the festival (and being with a bunch of high school students), we didn’t have the opportunity to experience Carnivale to the fullest, but we did get to enjoy much of it, including the central Carnival site and the closing parade.
For our first spate of free time on Friday, we entered the Carnival grounds to explore what there was to see and do. The experience was wonderful and unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, though the Carnival mascot, nicknamed “Effigy” was strange. The site had all sorts of ice sculptures (see Winter Snow Sculptures at Carnevale in Quebec City) and activities for the whole family, including a human sized foosball game, funky car races in ice tracks, a zip line, and even a hot tub for some warming up (bathing suits required!). The Carnival games and exhibitions were held in a beautiful park overlooking the half-frozen St. Lawrence River.
On Saturday, after some free time in the Old City and dinner at a French restaurant, we had the opportunity to watch the closing parade of the Winter Carnival. Traffic was jammed up everywhere, but with a little charm, our fine tour guide Ann Sophie was able to coax some police officers with her feminine wiles and they let us through some blocked off streets so that we were able to get an up close view of the parade.
The bus parked about a block away from the barricades from which we would watch the parade. The temperatures were frigid in the night air, but spirits were filled with anticipation of what was to come. Several police officers on motorbikes circled our corner in anticipation of the spectacle that was shortly beginning.
In my life, I’ve only seen a few local parades in some towns I’ve lived in, mostly with high school marching bands and the like. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the standard, but I’ve never seen that in person. The Winter Carnival Parade in Quebec City was simply awesome, with all sorts of colorful floats and even more colorful characters. There were Transformers and clowns, fire breathers and dancers, giant ladies in giant dresses and a whole lot more! The night air was freezing, but these performers heated up the festive atmosphere with their revelry.
The festivities lasted about an hour, and it was great fun the whole way through! When it was done, we celebrated the moment with cups of fresh hot chocolate. How sweet it was! Carnivale had officially ended for us, but we still had one more day to enjoy Quebec.
For photos, seeSights of Quebec’s Winter Carnival