Summer is over with a few heavy price tags!
Summer is over – A summer in our city that wasn’t the best on the weather front, but when it comes to celebrations, nobody can complain. The 375th anniversary of Montreal was lavishly celebrated, Canada’s sesquicentennial got a decent commemoration as well and even the 50th anniversary of Expo deserved some cocktail parties and fond remembrances from those who were young then.
But now the party is over, and it is the time to do some balance: Montreal spent over a billion dollar in the celebration of its 375th anniversary. Some of the events were good, some of the money dedicated to that birthday is being questioned, and most likely many of those expenses will become an issue in the upcoming municipal election in November. What was the best and the worst of the Montreal celebrations? Here are some of my reflections on the subject.
If I have to highlight the best of all the events marking the 375 years of Montreal, I will not hesitate to pick the performance by the Giant Marionettes, an outdoor and free event that attracted thousands of spectators. The brainchild of French director and actor Jean-Luc Courcoult, the Little Giant, the Deep Sea Diver, and the giant dog, captivated the audience with their well-synchronized walk around downtown Montreal demonstrated at the same time grace and power. The performance by the giant marionettes displayed artistic creativity and technological ability. It was a great event to celebrate the city with the additional element of being accessible to all audiences.
The second best event was Cité Mémoire that projected various segments of the history of Montreal on the walls of some buildings in the Old Montreal area. Particularly spectacular was the presentation on the large wall of the Palais de Justice, highlighting the history of Montreal from the time of its aboriginal inhabitants to the present day. This series of projections was an event that provided a much-needed view of the history not only of the city but also of Canada and Quebec, in a way that was at the same time entertaining and innovative.
The Open Air Museum, Ballade de la Paix, on Sherbrooke St. featuring different samples of modern public art created a delightful ambience around that street. Flags from each of the existing independent countries from all over the world contributed to give the exhibit an international flavour, although the art works were just from fewer of a dozen countries. Although the sight of multicoloured flags is always somehow festive, some may argue that such display wasn’t necessary. (And people from Kosovo have pointed out that the flag of their country wasn’t there, despite being an independent nation since 2008 recognized by Canada). This outdoor exhibit was put together by McGill University and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
As for the worst or at least the event that was the most misplaced, the nomination should go to the Formula E race. It seems that when Mayor Denis Coderre comes with some fixed idea in his mind, there is no way to make him change it, even if there are overwhelming reasons for that. Holding the electric cars race on various streets in the eastern part of downtown added to the already high cost of bringing the event to Montreal (allegedly 24 million), since it was necessary to install stands for the spectators and a few elevated passages for people in the area. Residents in the sector were the most inconvenienced and unhappy with the race: they were practically locked up in their neighbourhoods with great difficulties to go shopping or reach the metro station to go to work. The location chosen for the race is hard to understand considering that Montreal has in the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve a far more appropriate venue for this type of events.
Besides these special events, the usual festivals delivered once more high-quality performances, from the FrancoFolies to the Jazz Festival, to Just for Laughs, to Fantasia, to Nuits d’Afrique, and closing the season these days the World Film Festival. They all managed to satisfy both the local public and the many tourists who visit Montreal every year. Yeah, the weather was so-so, but the party was great!