The purpose of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, which emerged from the 1988 "Gatineau, on y croît" promotion campaign, is to provide the City of Gatineau with a major tourist and family event.
The Festival has rapidly become the most important hot air balloon gathering in Canada, and the fifth largest in the world. It is also the most popular summer festival in the Outaouais region. It has attracted European and North American pilots to fly their regular and specially-shaped balloons over the National Capital Region.
In 1988, the first festival attracted 47 balloons, including one from France, and the Honorary President for the festivities was His Excellency Philippe Husson, the French Ambassador to Canada. Although the balloons were all ready to go, the weather did not cooperate. Nevertheless, in a single day of operation, the festival drew a crowd of 34,000 to see the first tethered flights and a concert by the group Nuance.
In 1989, the sunshine, the pilots and not least, the public, made the Festival a great success. With four event-filled days, the festival attracted 90,000 visitors to La Baie Park and no less than 65 balloons from France, Switzerland, the United States and Canada.
Céline Dion and Pierre Flynn were the main drawing cards on the program.
The honorary president that year was Xavier de Montgolfier, a pilot from Annonay and a descendant of the inventors of the "lighter than air machine".
Also in 1989, representatives from Gatineau went on a promotional tour to Europe, in Chalon-sur-Saône and Metz, where 600 hot air balloons were gathered to celebrate the French Bicentenary.
In 1990, 110,000 people attended the 3rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, which was described by the Quebec Ministry of Tourism as the tourism event par excellence in the Outaouais area. Eighty-five balloon pilots from France, Switzerland, Spain, England, the United States and Canada took part in the festival, along with Honorary President Don Cameron of Great Britain, who is the largest manufacturer of balloons in the world. On the program were concerts by Paul Piché and Mitsou. There were six balloons of original shapes.
1991 saw 150,000 people and 90 balloonists from Europe, the United States and Canada attending the festival. Moreover, Gatineau was hosting the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships: Dan Balisky, a pilot from Manitoba was declared champion. The president of the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Association, Alex Nagorski, was the 4th Festival's honorary president.
Besides, four main shows by Daniel Lavoie, André-Philippe Gagnon, Marjo and Vilain Pingouin attracted crowds that filled La Baie Park every evening.
In 1992, 125 balloonists came to the 5th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival as the event marked the closing of Canada's 125th birthday celebrations in the National Capital Region. Good weather conditions made for a perfect score of seven launches, much to the delight of over 170,000 spectators.
Main stage concerts featured Richard Séguin, Luc De Larochellière, Céline Dion and Les B.B. The Festival also staged the first Canada-USA Hot Air Balloon Race, the Gatineau and Adirondack Festivals (New York State) joining in a friendly competition.
The Festival's honorary president was Rocky Aoki, the famous Japanese-American businessman who founded the BENIHANA Restaurant empire and crossed the Pacific Ocean aboard his "Double Eagle V" hot air balloon in just three and a half days!
In 1993, the Festival attracts 185,000 visitors. On the main stage: Robert Charlebois, Ginette Reno, Alannah Myles and Julie Masse. The sky fills with 150 hot air balloons, including 15 special shapes—Mickey Mouse, a Smurf, a parakeet, a dragon, etc. The Festival also welcomes two honorary presidents, Wim Verstraeten and Bertrand Piccard, winners of the first Chrysler transatlantic balloon race.
In 1994, the 7th Festival surpassed all previous attendance records. 150 hot air balloons from eight countries, including 20 special shapes, attracted close to 200,000 visitors to the Festival site.
Main stage concerts by Roch Voisine, France D'Amour, Claude Dubois, Gilles Vigneault and Édith Butler, a "Night Glow" performance featuring 60 hot air balloons and a spectacular fireworks display, drew large crowds. Voisine proved his megastar status by attracting tens of thousands of fans!
André Bilodeau, one of the first pilots to promote ballooning in Québec, served as the 7th Festival's Honorary President.
New heights were reached in 1995. Over 200,000 visitors attended six successful launches. Special-shape balloons, such as Noah's Ark and Disney's Magic Kingdom castle, were crowd favorites. Over 60 balloons participated in a spectacular "Night Glow". With over 70,000 people on hand, the Marjo concert broke all attendance records, followed by the Super Show which featured Sonia Benezra, Mitsou, Mario Pelchat, Jim Corcoran, Sylvain Cossette and Michaël Rancourt. Main stage stars Éric Lapointe and Gildor Roy also drew considerable crowds. Per Linstrand was Honorary President.
In 1996, attendance reached a record peak of 225,000. The main stage concerts featured Robert Charlebois, André-Philippe Gagnon, Marie Carmen and Kevin Parent, while groups like Quarimba, Al-Arz, Salamanca and Tchaka gave the weekend an exotic touch. Once again, Canadians won the Canada-U.S. race. The Saturday fireworks and Sunday Night Glow also broke attendance records. And for the first time a woman, Mady Smets, from Belgium, wore the mantle of Honorary President.
In 1997, the Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary in a big way: first by publishing Les vaisseaux du ciel, a glossy hardcover book on hot air ballooning by Italian journalist Marco Majrani. Cartoonist Paul Roux and author Michel Luppens also teamed up to produce a comic book entitled Et vive la montgolfière! More than 150 hot air balloons, including 20 special shapes such as the Scottish piper, a fox head and the Orient-Express locomotive, made five successful flights. Gipsy Kings, Richard Séguin, Anthony Kavanagh, Dan Bigras and Soul Attorneys were the main stage evening attractions. For this tenth year celebration, 225,000 visitors made the trip to La Baie Park.
The Festival celebrated its 11th anniversary by making ballooning history. For the first time ever in North America, Gatineau played host to the sixth edition of the World Hot Air Airship Championship.
Sixteen airship pilots from Europe, the United States and China performed speed and precision tasks as they competed for the world title. An Antonov 124, the world's largest cargo plane, was chartered to carry the hot air airships to North America. The Festival was extended to six days to accommodate both the airships and more than one hundred hot air balloons of all shapes and colors.
In addition to balloon events, the Festival program included 300 concerts, shows and other entertainment, including the fearless Snowbirds. The evening main stage concerts featured Claude Dubois, Dubmatique, Luce Dufault, Jonny Lang, Kevin Parent and Sylvain Cossette. A new festival CD with seven original tracks by Michel DeMars was also released in 1998.
From September 3 to 6, 1999, the last Festival of the century attracted around 200,000 visitors. The 12th edition featured 150 hot air balloons including many special shapes—the Energizer bunny, the Michelin man, the Statue of Liberty, a sun-shaped balloon, a daisy, a snowman and a pumpkin. Pilots also took part in two competitions: the Canada-U.S. race and the Bell ActiMedia race. The magnificent "Night Glow" evening was hosted by Francine Ruel, new Festival spokesperson.
Large crowds attended all four major outdoor concerts by Dubmatique, Bruno Pelletier, Corey Hart and Jean Leloup. The 12th edition schedule also featured "new circus" acrobatics and, for the first time but not the last, a strongman competition.
If ever there was any doubt about the public's loyalty, the 13th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, held from September 1 to 4, 2000, put the question to rest. Despite strong winds and rain that forced the cancellation of all balloon launches, almost 200,000 visitors were in attendance.
Main stage performers Zachary Richard, Marjo, Éric Lapointe and the rock group La Chicane attracted very large audiences every evening. The strongman competition, the Chinese acrobats, Richard Abel and Pierre Lalonde were the main daytime attractions. The Year 2000 Festival also gave its visitors a glimpse of the Chinese lantern festival that the Organizing Committee is planning for 2002 at La Baie Park. A brightly lit 30-metre-long banner was displayed on the Festival grounds to promote the event.
L'édition 2001 du Festival de montgolfières de Gatineau, qui s'est déroulée du 31 août au 3 septembre, a connu un succès hors pair. Pour une deuxième année consécutive, Francine Ruel, porte-parole officielle du Festival, s'est montrée à la hauteur et a très bien représenté l'événement. Grâce à un programme exceptionnel, près de 200 000 visiteurs ont participé à la 14e édition du Festival. L'envolée de nouvelles formes de montgolfières telles que le dragon Oggy, le personnage des croustilles Humpty Dumpty, la vache ailée, l'écureuil et le clown brésilien a fait les délices des yeux.
Ces formes décoraient le ciel de l'Outaouais, voire lui donnaient du tonus. Une quarantaine de manèges et un mégafeu d'artifice ont converti en quelques jours le paisible parc de la Baie en un lieu amusant et féerique. Il ne faut pas oublier les remarquables prestations de Luck Mervil, Sylvain Cossette, Bruno Pelletier et Okoumé, qui ont fait vibrer la scène Molson Dry. La variété des spectacles et animations (acrobates chinois, Fernand Gignac, Annie Brocoli, Concours des hommes forts) a su contenter un vaste public. Un Festival haut en couleur qui a bien conclu l'été dernier!
The Festival's 15th anniversary was a year of renewal and magic. A new team takes over, and a new spokesperson appears: Alain Choquette, a renowned magician. With his presence comes a new theme: "There's magic in the air." Some forty magicians, among the best in Québec, join the festivities as part of a rejuvenated program under the celebrated master Alain Choquette.
Balloons of all shapes and colours are launched at all seven scheduled flights. Featured artists Alain Choquette, Gabrielle Destroismaisons, Mario Pelchat and his guest Boom Desjardins, Richard Séguin and comic Stéphane Rousseau fill the Molson Dry main stage with song, magic and laughter. A sold-out tribute to Pierre Barouh, featuring Bïa, Dorothée Berryman, Renée Claude, Pierre Lapointe and Micheline Scott, is held at the Canadian Museum of Civilizations. Under the sun for its entire duration, the 15th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival delivered skied filled with hot air balloons and more than 300 shows and activities featuring over 100 artists to thousands of happy visitors.
There were major new features for the 16th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. One addition was the Rona L’entrepôt Magic Dome, where spokesperson Alain Choquette gave 18 astounding presentations of micro-magic before more than 12,000 people, reinforcing the theme “There’s magic in the air.”
Another important change was that all children’s activities were grouped in one sector called “The Small Enchanted World.” The Festival also provided high visibility to young talents, giving three artists from the region — Eva, Geoffrey Larivière and Joëlle Miller — the opportunity to perform in the introductory part of Roch Voisine’s show. Several thousand Festival goers attended the performances by Roch Voisine, Daniel Bélanger, Bob Walsh, Lulu Hughes, Yelo Molo and the Respectables, who enchanted their large audiences. Another attraction was the Mike the Monster balloon, modelled on the famous character from the Walt Disney film Monsters Inc.; making its first North American tour, it was one of more than 70 hot air balloons that filled the sky with colour over the city of Gatineau. Spectators were dazzled by the Mega Fireworks display produced by Royal Pyrotechnie, first prize winner at the 2003 Mondial SAQ. Every seat was taken for the three-day strongmen’s competition, in which a dozen top athletes took part. In all, a hundred performers offered more than 280 shows and presentations to thousands of delighted visitors.
Finally, the 850 RV enthusiasts who came from all over Canada and the United States returned home charmed and thrilled by their visit to the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.
In 2006, Chantal Lacroix joined the team as the Festival’s official spokesperson. The program, which included the highly popular Simple Plan and Mobile as the opening acts and Cowboys Fringants as the closing act attracted record crowds for a Friday (60,000) and Monday (45,000), traditionally the least attended days of the weekend. Garou drew 50,000 people, as 15,000 undaunted festival-goers braved the rain and mud to attend the girls’ Sunday night show. Once again, the Festival cleared its stage for up and coming artists by offering the first parts of the shows to young local talents who got the experience of a lifetime on the Molson Dry Main Stage.
Turning to the hot air balloons, two out of seven flights dotted the skies over Gatineau and Ottawa during the 19th edition, a rather disappointing turnout
given that the Festival tends to average four. There was a record number of reservations for hot air balloon rides this year, a clear demonstration of the public’s growing interest in this activity. The 12 special forms marked a five-year record. Star pilot Joe Kittinger, who holds the world record for the highest parachute jump from a hot air balloon, gave a
highly appreciated speech for the Festival’s opening. Japan was the host country this year, with its Doraemon balloon. In the take-off area, the Dream Team manned by American Ted Ohara, won the 3rd edition of the unique North American Crew Competition. At the 8th Canadian Strength Athletes Championship presented by the Casino du Lac-Leamy, Gatineau resident Jessen Paulin hauled away the national title, beating his closest rival Dominic Filiou by 15 points.
Over the years, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival has also become the second largest gathering of RVers in Quebec, after St-Tite. This year, the Festival welcomed a record of upwards of 1,200 RVs at the site, which was full by 5 p.m. on the Friday night.
The sun soared and shone brightly from August 31 to September 3, 2007 throughout the 20th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.
On the Molson Dry Main Stage, the Sunday evening show drew an impressive 65,000 spectators to the Dan Bigras et ses blondes and Bruno Pelletier concerts. For the Friday opening, Compagnie Créole had 40,000 people dancing and singing, while Alfa Rococo and Eva drew an audience of some 55,000. Kaïn, followed by Champion et ses G-Strings had the honour of closing this 20th edition, before approximately 30,000 spectators.
The organizers estimate that in total, counting the young families who came for the day and left before the shows, 230,000 festival-goers visited the site over the four days of the event, a record number according to the old-timers.
Despite the brightly shining sun, the hot air balloons were unable to lift off four times because of winds stronger than the prescribed limits.
Nonetheless, visitors who were at the site on the Saturday morning and evening and on the Sunday morning had the opportunity to see dozens of hot air balloons lift off, including the giant Jesus, the Space Shuttle, and the Cake. The Sky Hawks, the Canadian Forces Parachute Team, dazzled the crowds on the Sunday afternoon, spinning through the sky in formations or with colourful flares.
Gatineau’s Jessen Paulin won the North American Champion title after the closest battle ever at the Strength Athletes site. By the time the different events were completed, Paulin and America’s Brian Shaw were both at 83 points, ahead of the rest. Gatineau’s star finally edged ahead to grab the winner’s crown.
The six out of seven lift-offs that Flight Director André Boucher and his team were delighted to enjoy what was the best outcome since 2002, when all seven made it.
Mother Nature came through for the 21st edition, from August 29 to September 1, 2008, despite a slight hiccup on the Friday because of the mist that settled in until the end of the performance by the Finger Eleven band. However, the 25,000 fans who turned out were more than delighted by the privilege of attending their favourite band’s only show in Quebec.
There were already an impressive number of folding chairs installed by festival-goers by the time the site opened on Saturday and Sunday morning, as preparations were underway for the shows by Marie-Élaine Thibert, Xavier Caféïne, Pascale Picard and Dennis DeYoung, who attracted 60,000 and 70,000 people on each of those two days, respectively
This edition was marked by an all-time attendance record for the Festival, which was extremely busy throughout all four days of this cultural event. An impressive 277,000 visitors showed up in 2009. The pilots took full advantage of their presence in Gatineau. There were five flights, one having been cancelled because of strong winds that would have swept the hot air balloons off in the wrong direction.
The shows presented on the Loto-Québec Stage all attracted impressive crowds. On the Saturday, there was a tidal wave of spectators for the King of Country, Kenny Rogers. Mes Aïeux, Marie-Mai, Ariane Moffatt and Éric Lapointe also attracted tens of thousands of spectators.
In a tight race, Quebec giant Christian Savoie from Val-Joli, became the new North American Strength Athletes champion.
The 23rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival will go down in history for the tenacity and loyalty of both volunteers and visitors. The site remained crowded every day, and people had a fine time despite the poor weather.
Festival-goers enjoyed the shows by Bobby Bazini, Our Lady Peace and Hedley on the Friday night. On the Saturday, the finest female voices in Quebec got together with Laurence Jalbert, Johanne Blouin, France D’Amour and Luce Dufault. For the Sunday, Sylvain Cossette invited his two good friends, Bruno Pelletier and Dan Bigras. Flamenco guitar virtuoso Jesse Cook performed for the first part. The Cowboys Fringants then took over and wrapped up with their many hits during a high energy closing show.
The Festival had a record number of RVs, making it over the 1,500 mark. In fact, by the Thursday afternoon, the Domaine des caravaniers Centre VR Bélanger was already full.
Three of the seven planned lift-offs finally took place. The tail end of Hurricane Earl played a key role in most of the cancellations, what with the strong winds and at times torrential downpours at the lift-off times.
The Strength Athletes Championship drew a crowd of 15,000 fans. Despite the impressive rally by Gatineau’s Jessen Paulin on the second day of the competition, Christian Savoie held onto his title as the North American Strength Athletes Champion.
175,000 visitors showed up for this most particular edition of the Festival!
While the hot air balloons may have shown their faces less often than festival organizers would have liked, the Festival made up for it with the quality of its shows.
Although the uncertain weather forecasts affected attendance at the day’s activities, the different program elements once again came through. Two out of eight lift-offs took place, as well as one tethered flight.
The shows on the Loto-Québec Stage attracted tens of thousands of festival-goers, starting on the Friday with David Usher and the mythical Roger Hodgson. The Saturday evening show drew a most impressive crowd with Marc Dupré and his special guests, Véronic DiCaire and Annie Villeneuve. The fans also turned out for Roch Voisine on the Sunday, and for the double program on the Monday with Les Trois Accords and Les Respectables.
The performances on the four stages, namely by the BB, Patsy Gallant, Martin Giroux and Jenny Rock, were very well received. The amusement rides, family activities, RONA L’entrepôt Circus, Bistros SAQ, Michel Quesnel, pharmacien fireworks and the Tim Hortons pit stops were also part of the weekend’s highlights.
In terms of the finals of the Tourisme Québec / Ville de Gatineau Strength Athletes Championship, Quebec’s Christian Savoie beat his closest rival by more than 10 points, winning the coveted title.
Mother Nature waited two years before she finally got on board with the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival organizers. And for this 25th anniversary, was she ever ready! Nobody could have asked for more.
Three of the seven initially planned lift-offs kept the hopeful admirers happy, as did the three magnificent tethered rides. The majestic creatures certainly got their chance to vaunt their wares to the awestruck onlookers!
The crowds came from far and wide, day and night, to take in the 300 or so shows and performances at the event. It was clear that the Saturday turnout broke a ten-year record, thanks in part to the terrific show put on by Simple Plan. KC and the Sunshine Band, for their part, managed to warm up the shivering crowds, revving up their spirits on the one cold night of the Festival. As for Isabelle Boulay, the charming singer had the crowd in the palm of her hand with her extensive repertoire of country folk hits.
The Tourisme Québec / Ville de Gatineau North American Strength Athletes Championship crowned a new champion, Quebec’s Jean-François Caron.
We had the privilege of attending the historic reconstitution of the first hot air balloon flight, for the first time ever in America, put on by Roland de Montgolfier and his team, who came all the way from France to treat our festival-goers.
The theme for the 25th edition was Twenty-five years, now that’s something to celebrate, and to sing and dance about. And that’s exactly how this anniversary ended, with the crowd belting out its joy at the top of its lungs, almost drowning out Éric Lapointe, who left his audience ecstatic.
A top notch program lineup has nothing to fear from one of Mother Nature’s nasty tricks, as was evident at the 26th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival presented by Loto-Québec in collaboration with Desjardins.
As always, the highlights were the pilots and their hot air balloons. All three lift-offs of the Desjardins green flag were greeted by loud cheers from the excited spectators.
Festival-goers turned out in droves to hear Canadian star Mia Martina and Jamaican reggae icon Sean Paul. On the Saturday night, three artists, from three generations, with three distinctive voices, appeared on the Loto-Québec Stage: Garou, Valérie Carpentier and Daniel Lavoie. And to top it all off, none other than Éric Lapointe made an appearance to perform two songs with Garou. On the Sunday night, Bernard Adamus and Mes Aïeux had their huge audience at fever pitch. And on Monday, snubbing their noses at the gloomy weather forecast, the crowds once again descended on the site with one thought in mind: PARTY TIME! By the end of the day, even the rain couldn’t throw a damper on the sizzling shows put on by Damien Robitaille and Loco Locass.
As for the Tourisme Québec/Ville de Gatineau Strength Athletes Championship, where everyone was talking about the success of the Louis Cyr film, the last word went to Jean-François Caron with his 1.5 point lead over Christian Savoie.
For its 27th edition, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, presented by Loto-Québec in collaboration with Desjardins, decided not to argue with success, and added a fifth day of festivities to its program lineup. International star Jason Derulo fired up the audience with Thursday night’s opening show. On the Friday, history was made on the Loto-Québec Stage with the joint appearance of four icons: Paul Piché, Zachary Richard, Michel Rivard and Patrick Norman. On the Saturday, Phillip Phillips let everyone know that he felt right at home, and treated the audience to a most generous performance. The extremely popular Marc Dupré, and his guests from La Voix, had the Outaouais audience eating out of their hands. The Festival wrapped up with its all new happy hour formula in the embrace of a powerful performance by Kaïn!
Strong winds kept the number of Desjardins flights down to three, with only tethered flights for the remainder. However, festival-goers still got a taste of the world of hot air ballooning thanks to the generosity of the pilots who were on hand during the activities organized at the Lift-Off Area for the ever popular Meet the Pilots event presented by Desjardins and the special shapes Nightglow on the Friday night.
The new Hydro-Québec Stage attracted huge crowds, with David Thibault, Nanette Workman, Michel Pagliaro, Martine St-Clair, Johanne Blouin, Martin Deschamps and Breen LeBoeuf. The Family Stage was also a huge hit!
Festival-goers gathered around the strength athletes’ arena were treated to a wicked face-off. The nine events culminated with American Brian Shaw hoisting the $5,000 purse for his five-point lead over outgoing Champion Jean-François Caron.
Once again, local artists proved that the Outaouais is a force to be reckoned with on Quebec’s cultural scene: Ricky Paquette, Renée Wilkin, Jessica Levasseur Teck, Myriame Proulx, Lisa Hammill, Alain Barbeau, Geneviève Roberge-Bouchard and of course Patrice Bélanger, the ever popular FMG spokesperson!
This 28th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival delivered a generous dose of energy, music, comedy and public participation.
The daring program lineup on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage proved to be up to the challenge. The Thursday night featured Alex Nevsky, Les trois accords, Claude Bégin, Klô Pelgag and Karim Ouellet, followed by the high energy performance by Éric Lapointe and his guests. On Saturday night, audiences were treated to an FMG premiere, a comedy show hosted by Martin Vachon, with Réal Béland, François Massicotte, Peter Macleod and Mariana Mazza, including musical interludes by Brothers’ Sessions. Sunday night was country night, with Gildor Roy, Edith Butler, Maxime Landry, Paul Daraîche and Patrick Groulx. And Monday night wrapped up the terrific five-day run in style with music from the 90s by Frères à ch’val, Noir Silence, Les Respectables, Vilain Pingouin and Zébulon. The Hydro-Québec Stage once again this year delivered some very fine shows by, among others, Sally Folk, Luc de Larochellière and The Box. Several local artists also had a chance to appear.
The hot air balloons, the other highlights of the event, were able to manage four Desjardins lift-offs out of a possible nine, as well as a tethered flight on the Sunday. On the Friday night, the sky came to life with the glow of 13 special shape balloons.
In its first year, the new team formula for the ministère du Tourisme / Ville de Gatineau International Strength Athletes event was a hit. Despite the clear superiority of the pair from the United States, the battle for second place was hotly contested. It finally went to the strength athletes from Estonia, leaving those from Great Britain in third place, and the Canadians in fourth.
More than 1,030 RVs settled in at the Domaine des caravaniers. Visitors streamed in from coast to coast, including from Texas, New Brunswick and British Columbia, and several from different parts of Quebec, Ontario and the rest of Canada.
The 29th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival was an outstanding success by any measure. The addition of alternative lift-off areas for the morning rides proved to be an excellent call. The hot air balloons lifted off at dawn on Saturday and Sunday from the Gatineau airport, where the winds were perfect for the occasion. In total, there were five free flights and one tethered flight out of a possible total of nine, giving the public the opportunity to admire the gigantic balloons from different parts of Canada, the United States, Mexico and Brazil. Some of this year's favourites were Pea-Nut the Flying Elephant, the Space Shuttle, and YuYu the penguin, which were also part of the two night glows! The new educational stations also gave the public the chance to learn about the role of the ground crews, a key link in any hot air balloon ride.
For the third year in a row, the Festival extended over 5 days, and there was a definite rise in attendance on Thursday, with the grand opening show by Véronic DiCaire on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage. The unique tribute to David Bowie and Prince on Friday involved some incredible collaborations, including the all-included finale with Purple Rain, with Valérie Carpentier, Élizabeth Blouin-Brathwaite, Annie Villeneuve, Brigitte Boisjoli, Véronic DiCaire, Gregory Charles, Dan Bigras, Martin Deschamps, Maxime Proulx, 10 musicians and a large choir. One of the highlights was Véronic DiCaire's rendition of Bowie's Let's Dance, which brought the crowd to a frenzy. A giant wave of people swept in for the show by Marc Dupré, who was joined by Marie-Mai, Yvan Pedneault and Geneviève Leclerc. Jérôme Couture and spokesperson Patrice Bélanger surprised the crowd by joining them. The evening of comedy and music by P-A Méthot had tens of thousands of festival-goers laughing and singing along with Men Without Hats, Martine St-Clair, Dominic Paquet, Julien Tremblay and Mike Ward! The 29th edition ended on the joyful and uplifting country notes of Renée Martel and her guests Luce Dufault, Laurence Jalbert, Brigitte Boisjoli, Guylaine Tanguay, Annie Blanchard and Valérie Carpentier. The Hydro-Québec Stage and the Family Stage also saw record crowds, among others for the shows by the incomparable Marjo and Légendes in the first part, and Annie Brocoli and Salmigondis in the second. Up-and-coming and local artists also had their chance to shine in different locations around the site.
It was a close battle among the contestants of the Ville de Gatineau Junior Ultimate Strongman Championship. Canada's Cheick Sanou, originally from Burkina Faso, now living in New Brusnwick, weighing 342 pounds and measuring 6'2", impressed everyone with his agility, even performing a perfect cartwheel! Finally, it was the US' Nick Hadge who earned the honour of being crowned the strongest junior man in the world!