History of the festival
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.
Malgré un été marqué par des pluies torrentielles, l'édition 2004 du Festival a été agrémentée de quatre journées radieuses. Cela a permis aux festivaliers présents d’assister à quatre envolées lors desquelles 80 montgolfières ont décoré de leurs multiples couleurs et formes le ciel de l’Outaouais. Plusieurs de ces drôles de volatiles effectuaient leur premier séjour en territoire gatinois. Pensons à Nudie, arrivé en primeur au Festival, à l’Ange et au démon ainsi qu’aux deux petites Abeilles, en provenance respectivement de l’Australie, du Brésil et des États-Unis.
Les nouvelles activités de l’événement, comme la compétition d’équipiers et la journée de visite libre, auront contribué à augmenter la connaissance populaire de ce sport de haute altitude.
La Grande scène a accueilli quatre spectacles uniques au Québec. Ainsi, se sont succédés pendant les quatre soirs du Festival : le vendredi, Daniel Boucher précédé des gagnants du Concours de la relève culturelle de Gatineau, soit Alexandre Simpson Tremblay, Andréane Lafrenière-Renaud et Pier-Luc Labelle Charlebois; le samedi, Nanette Workman, Marie-Chantal Toupin, Laurence Jalbert, Mélanie Renaud et Andrée Watters, sans oublier la participation spéciale de deux merveilleux talents locaux, Joëlle Miller et Eva; le dimanche, Bruno Pelletier et son invité Gino Vannelli; enfin, le lundi, La Bottine Souriante, avec la présence exceptionnelle de Martin Giroux. Le Festival a aussi présenté le 6e Championnat canadien des athlètes de force. Plus de 5 000 spectateurs par jour se sont entassés dans les gradins pour observer Hugo Girard, qui a remporté son 6e titre d’homme le plus fort du Canada. Des milliers de personnes ont aussi assisté aux 27 spectacles de micromagie d’Alain Choquette, porte-parole du Festival pour une 3e année consécutive, sous le Dôme magique Rona L’entrepôt.
Une mise aux enchères de tours de montgolfières avec des artistes populaires, dont Francine Ruel, Bruno Pelletier, Marie-Hélène Thibault, François-Étienne Paré, Martin Dion et Christopher Hall a permis de récolter 2 000 $ pour la Fondation canadienne Rêves d’Enfants. En avant-première du spectacle du dimanche, les pilotes ont illuminé leur montgolfière au rythme de diverses chansons country, rock et classique. Rudolf Höfer, le pilote du Renard, a importé de l’Europe ce concept, présenté à un public extasié devant cette féerie de couleurs. Ainsi, du haut de ses trois cents spectacles et animations, la 17e édition aura semé joie et satisfaction parmi une assistance globale évaluée à 200 000 visites, dont plus de 2 000 caravaniers.
L'édition 2005 a été celle de l’inauguration de la nouvelle montgolfière du Festival. Celle-ci, en compagnie de plus de 70 autres montgolfières, dont Van Gogh de Hollande à son premier voyage en Amérique du Nord, a affiché sa splendeur lors des quatre envolées réalisées. Don Cameron, le propriétaire de la plus grosse fabrique de montgolfières au monde, a quant à lui fait un aller-retour Canada-Angleterre, pour venir offrir une conférence passionnante sur la montgolfière.
La formule de spectacles uniques présentés sur la Grande scène Molson Dry a grandement contribué à attirer les foules record qui se sont déplacées durant les quatre jours de la 18e édition du Festival. Charmés dès le départ par les gagnants du Concours de la relève culturelle de Gatineau, Alain Barbeau, Guillaume Guilbaut et Valéry Lemay Laporte, les festivaliers ont ensuite pu entendre Boom Desjardins accompagné de Top Passion, un groupe vocal de l’Outaouais. Malgré les averses du samedi après-midi, les festivaliers ont aussi assisté en grand nombre au spectacle enlevant d’Éric Lapointe, accompagné pour l’occasion de ses meilleurs amis, Hugo Lapointe, Martin Deschamps et Florent Vollant. Ensemble, ils ont offert un spectacle de plus de deux heures, avant de céder la place au traditionnel feu d’artifice PJC Michel Quesnel de Gatineau, orchestré par Royal Pyrotechnie. La palme d’or, côté assistance, revient tout de même à la soirée du dimanche 4 septembre. Les sept artistes présents, Michel Pagliaro, Marie-Chantal Toupin, Luck Mervil, Vincent Vallières, Émily Bégin, Marie-Mai et Nicola Ciccone, ont diverti plus de 75 000 spectateurs, un record depuis la visite de Céline Dion en 1992. Pour clôturer en beauté le Festival, les gens ont dansé par milliers sur les airs folkloriques de Mes Aïeux et sur le son disco du Boogie Wonder Band.
Les activités au programme dans le jour réservaient des moments forts, comme le spectacle de Michèle Richard sur l’arrière-scène, le Championnat de break dance ou encore les 23 spectacles à guichets fermés, sous le Dôme magique Rona L’entrepôt, d’Alain Choquette. Le porte-parole de l’événement était accompagné de Richard Sanders et de Lilo Traina. La troisième édition du Vent en fête Desjardins a fait sourire plusieurs enfants; mille cerfs-volants ont été distribués, pour une initiation plaisante à ce sport de haute voltige. Le 7e Championnat canadien des athlètes de force, présenté par le Casino du Lac-Leamy, a permis à un autre héros local, Jessen Paulin, de succéder à son professeur, Hugo Girard, absent de la compétition pour cause de blessure. Fait important, 3,58 tonnes d’ordures ont été recyclées grâce à la présence sur le site du Consortium ÉCHO-Logique et à plus de 150 bacs de récupération.
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 and the Michel Quesnel, pharmacien fireworks 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!
A family tradition for 30 years !
The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, established in 1988, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. The Leisure Days RV park was sold out 11 days before it opened. The close to 1,200 RVs started rolling on Tuesday, August 29, their occupants determined to make the most of the activities organized for Canada's 150th.
The Festival kicked off on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage on Thursday, August 31, with 2Frères and Les Cowboys Fringants. The cool weather didn't deter our spokesperson Patrice Bélanger from stripping down along with Cowboys bassist Jérôme Dupras for a bodysurfing session.
The Friday evening was a testament to Quebecers' love for comedy, featuring Stéphane Rousseau, Cathy Gauthier, Philippe Laprise and Alexandre Barrette. Michel Louvain then served up a collection of his top hits. The Envolée 150 show was the FMG's biggest production to that point, with an audience in the tens of thousands on hand to applaud Claude Dubois, Debbie Lynch-White, Martin Giroux, Martin Rouette, Philippe Touzel, Bryan Audet, Bruno Pelletier, Luce Dufault, Samian, Nicolas Pellerin, Geneviève Leclerc and Patrick Groulx (host).
On the Sunday, rocker Éric Lapointe, surprised his audience by inviting La Voix 5 winner Ludovick Bourgeois on stage. The Festival wrapped up on the Monday evening to the country sounds of Guylaine Tanguay and her guests.
While many will hold onto their memories of rain-soaked performances, they will never be able to forget the sizzling shows by Martin Deschamps, Laurence Jalbert, Stéphanie St-Jean and the legendary band UZEB.
The Ultimate Strongman Junior World Championship ended with the crowning of England's Paul Smith, followed by Lithuania's Martynas Brusokas and Canada's Wesley Moose. Ireland's Matthew McCoy beat two world records, one of which was for lifting a 950 pound sandbag!
The less than ideal weather allowed for only three hot air balloon displays, one as a tethered flight, one as a free flight, and the third as a Night Glow. The Simba and Blue Whale special shapes made quite an impression! The daytime activities and shows proved beyond a doubt that the FMG is definitely an unmissable family festival.
Xavier de Montgolfier, a direct descendant of the Montgolfier brothers, inventors of the hot air balloon, was chosen as Honorary President of the 2nd edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in 1989 while Philippe Husson, Ambassador of France to Canada, was the 1988 Honorary President.
His ancestors Joseph and Étienne de Montgolfier launched their first "lighter-than-air" balloon in 1783 in the town of Annonay, south of Lyon, in France. Two hundred years later, Xavier de Montgolfier joined with other family members to found the Club de montgolfières de la ville d'Annonay (the Annonay hot air balloon club).
"To appropriately celebrate the bicentennial of this great invention, explains Xavier de Montgolfier, we just had to find a hot air balloon. With sponsor support, we managed to obtain one and founded the club to enable all balloon enthusiasts to fly with us."
Today, with six balloons and 21 members, the Annonay hot air balloon club operates in a very special manner. Its pilots don’t own the balloons they fly, since every piece of equipment belongs to the club and remains available to all members.
Don Cameron, owner of the most important balloon manufacturing plant in the world, was appointed Honorary President of the 3rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in 1990.
Aeronautical engineer by trade and an airplane pilot from the age of 17, Don Cameron took an interest in ballooning in 1967. To Cameron and a group of friends we owe the first hot air airship in England, the "Bristol Belle". His newfound passion turned into an occupation in 1968 when Don Cameron assumed ownership of the largest balloon manufacturing firm in the world.
Today, his Bristol (U.K.), Harrogate (U.K.), Moscow (Russia) and Michigan (U.S.A.) plants turn out an average of one balloon per day. Cameron hot air balloons, hot air airships and helium balloons can now be found in over 50 countries.
Don Cameron regularly flies his balloons in situations that put them to the test. When he attended the Gatineau festival, he experimented a one-seat hot air balloon where the pilot sits on a chair fitted with a burner on its back and an envelope. The balloon is used for lifting off in confined areas. In 1972, Don Cameron crossed the Sahara desert in a hot air balloon and was the first balloonist to fly over the Swiss Alps, a feat for which he was rewarded with a bronze medal by the British Royal Aero Club
Alex Nagorski, Chairman of the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Association, has been named Honorary President of the 4th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held from August 30 to September 2, 1991.
Mr. Nagorski was Chairman of the Canadian Association for two years. The Association draws together over 200 balloonists from across the country. The attendance of Mr. Nagorski added a special lustre to the Gatineau festival, which hosted the Canadian Ballooning Championships that year.
The Canadian Association chairman has been piloting balloons for over 15 years. He is also a member of the Edmonton Balloon Corporation.
Rocky H. Aoki, owner of BENIHANA, a world-wide chain of Japanese restaurants, was the Honorary President of the 5th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held in 1992.
But Rocky H. Aoki is not satisfied with being a great manager. He also ranks among the great balloonists.
He was the first to succeed a Pacific Ocean crossing aboard the "Double Eagle V", establishing a world record. He entered the first aerostat competition held in the Community of Independant States (former USSR) and won against five American teams. He now adds the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival to his list of world-class events.
Hot air balloons have taken him to the four corners of the earth and have been widely used in his company's advertising. Festival goers had a chance to see two of them: one representing the BENIHANA chain, the other featuring the BENIHANA chef.
Les grands vainqueurs de la première course transatlantique en ballon furent les hôtes de la ville de Gatineau au cours du Festival en 1993. En effet, Bertrand Piccard et Wim Verstraeten ont été les présidents d'honneur du sixième Festival de montgolfières de Gatineau.
Les 200 000 visiteurs participant à ce grand événement haut en couleur ont pu voir ces deux pilotes émérites à bord de leur montgolfière des plus impressionnantes... en forme de schtroumpf.
Pilote d'ultraléger et d'aile delta, le Suisse Bertrand Piccard en est tout naturellement venu au ballon. Quant au pilote professionnel, Wim Verstraeten, il s'est fait grandement remarquer. Il a été le premier à survoler le Kilimandjaro ainsi que le premier pilote belge dans l'histoire de l'aviation à traverser la Manche.
Le 21 mars 1999, Bertrand Piccard et Brian Jones furent les premiers à accomplir le tour du monde sans escale en ballon.
André Bilodeau, a pilot who pioneered hot air ballooning in the province of Québec, has been named honorary president of the 7th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.
In 1994, the honor was bestowed on André Bilodeau, a Sherbrooke, Québec, resident and a Gatineau regular from the Festival's very beginnings. He piloted the Matériaux Inovaco pink elephant balloon.
In 1980, Bilodeau, Michel Auzat (Télé-Direct balloon pilot) and a group of balloonists organized the Association de montgolfières du Québec to promote ballooning in Québec and increase safety measures for pilots. Bilodeau, who has twice been elected as the Association's President, is an electrical contractor but also represents the "Balloon Works" and "Galaxie" hot air balloon companies.
Celebrated holder of world records for height, distance and duration, Per Lindstrand has literally revolutionized ballooning. In a public tribute to his hard work and ingenuity, the 8th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held in 1995 has chosen Mr. Lindstrand as its Honorary President.
Lindstrand perfected his hot air balloons through numerous experimental flights. In the late seventies, he became interested in lighter than air crafts. Working as an engineer at Thunder and Colt, he propelled the balloon manufacturing company to the top ranks, helping it become one of the European leaders in product quality.
Today, Lindstrand owns his own balloon factory in Oswestry, England, and specializes in hot air balloons, gas balloons and airships.
In 1996, Mady Smets from Brussels accepted the invitation to become Honorary President of the 9th Festival. She has achieved recognition as one of the foremost ballooning promoters in Europe. Founder and President of the Montgolfiades universitaires internationales de Bruxelles, Mrs. Smets has been instrumental in organizing this most popular European ballooning event, and has succeeded in getting active student participation from Belgium and other countries. Mady Smets is also well known in financial and pharmaceutical circles in Brussels. She has also been involved with the restoration of the village of Peyresq ruins (in French region of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) by students from several countries, for the purpose of creating an international center for the humanities, arts, culture and science. Mrs. Smets brought with her to the Festival an exact replica of the original Montgolfier brothers hot air balloon.
To emphasize the long-standing friendship between the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Adirondack Balloon Festival (Glens Falls, New York), the Organizing Committee chose Walter and Joan Grishkot as 1997 Honorary Presidents. Both have managed the Adirondack festival for 25 years. Since 1992, the two festivals have joined forces to initiate and promote an annual Canada-U.S. balloon race in which pilots from both countries enter in a friendly hare and hound competition. Gatineau hosts the first leg of the race, the second event being held at Glens Falls in mid-September. A third country, Japan, is joining the race in 1997. The first of three Canada-U.S.-Japan races is being held in November at the Saga Balloon Festival in Japan. Gatineau will follow in 1998, with Glens Falls completing the cycle in 1999.
The Jean Boileau award
This annual award aims to underscore the work and involvement of a hot air balloon pilot, volunteer or member of the organizing committee. Its creation was announced in 2007 at the moving tribute to Mr. Boileau during the Festival’s 20th anniversary.
As the Hot Air Balloon Festival's General Director from its inception to 2001, Jean Boileau helped rally numerous volunteers, pilots and different artists, making this event a must-see family and tourist activity in the Outaouais.
A selection committee comprising current and past organizers, including Jean Boileau, has the task of designating the recipient.
Gaston Lepage receives the Jean Boileau Award
Who can forget Gaston Lepage at the controls of his little experimental hot air balloon, which he would fly over the crowds gathered at parc de la Baie? An unabashed lover of the outdoors and open skies, he was the event's first spokesperson, serving in that capacity from 1992 to 1999.
At the time, Gaston Lepage was an easy choice as spokesperson. He was a hydroplane pilot, and had just completed, in 1991, the script for a movie about a story that took place in a hot air balloon. He knew many pilots, as well as the basics of an aerostation.
The flame that burned so bright within him remains palpable to this day. "A hot air balloon ride is a fireworks that doesn't need the night in order to light up the sky!" he will tell you without hesitation.
"Gaston Lepage's involvement as spokesperson helped propel the event into every living room and kitchen in Quebec, and to spread the reputation of Gatineau and its Festival far and wide. For eight years, he presented the aerostation with passion and conviction, and kept attracting visitors. In fact, he was far more than a spokesperson: he was an important ambassador for the Outaouais. For all of his work and commitment, the time has come to tip our hats to the man in the big hat, that great adventurer from Quebec. Thank you Gaston!" noted Jean Boileau, FMG founder and Director of Communications for Ville de Gatineau.
Thérèse Cyr receives the Jean Boileau Award
Ask her anything at all about the Festival’s history, and Thérèse Cyr will have the answer!
As one of the Festival’s founding members, Thérèse has contributed to its growth, in particular by inviting dozens of community associations to join and by getting them to help sell wristband passports before and during the event. Thérèse has been a volunteer with the FMG for 30 years, and is the only one who has been on the organizing committee since the very first edition!
“Her dedication has been a source of inspiration for the volunteers, many of whom have gotten involved precisely because of her,” explained Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival founder and Gatineau’s Director of Communications Jean Boileau.
Diane Latreille receives the Jean Boileau Award
An outstanding volunteer, Diane Latreille, is this year's recipient of the Jean Boileau Award!
As head of the Lost Children and Infant Care Committee, she relies on a team of 50 volunteers to ensure the well-being of the children throughout the site from the time it opens until it closes. And as if this were not enough, she also makes herself available the week before the event to help welcome RVers!
"Drying tears and comforting fears is not something that just anyone can do, but for Diane Latreille and her team of volunteers, it is more than possible. Through her volunteer work, Diane has created a home on the parc de la Baie site to welcome and care for children who have gotten carried away by the excitement of the activities at the Festival and for a few moments let go of their parents' hands. For 29 years, she has been the adoptive mother of the Festival's children, comforting them with her big heart, dedication, and tender smile," noted Jean Boileau, the founder of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, and the director of communications for Ville de Gatineau.
Berthe Miron receives the Jean Boileau Award
Berthe Miron is one of the founding members of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, along with Jean Boileau, Claire Vaive and Thérèse Cyr.
“The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival would saw some of its grandest years under Berthe Miron’s presidency, with close to 150 hot air balloons and 225,000 visitors annually,” explained Jean Boileau, Festival founder and communications director for Gatineau. “The landmark event of her presidency was in 1998, when World Hot Air Airship Championship was held for the very first time in North America along with regular hot air balloon flights. Thanks to her determination, her commitment to compromise and justice, during the six years of her presidency, she managed to earn the trust of the 1,500 volunteers and members of the organizing committee, and turned the Festival into a source of pride for the residents of Gatineau and the Outaouais,” added Mr. Boileau.
The Jean Boileau Award highlights the involvement of the people who make the event. Berthe Miron will receive her award on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage on Sunday, September 6.
Hugo Girard receives the Jean Boileau Award
In 1999, Gatineau police officer Hugo Girard suggested to Jean Boileau that the Festival include strength athlete demonstrations. The rest is history! This larger than life athlete was crowned world champion in 2002, and was instrumental in promoting the athletic side of this sport. He was the North American champion in 2001 and 2002, and once even pulled an 80-tonne Boeing 737!Although he no longer competes, he is deeply involve...d in organizing our North American Championship! The Jean Boileau Award highlights the involvement of the people who make the event. Hugo, one of the Festival’s great ambassadors received his award on the Loto-Québec Stage on Sunday, August 31.
Rolly Hammond receives the Jean Boileau Award
Gatineau’s Rolly Hammond, line producer for the event from 1992 to 1999, will receive the Jean Boileau Award for this 26th edition! “Rolly Hammond is the one to whom we owe the continuous entertainment formula used throughout parc de la Baie. From the main stage to the rides, he helped bring heart and meaning to this big family party,” explained Festival founder Jean Boileau. The 86 year-old Rolly Hammond has had a unique career! Actor, producer, impersonator and entertainer, he has made the rounds of the world of showbiz, from Quebec to Hollywood. In addition to being the French voice of Donald Duck, he has shared the stage with some of the biggest names, including Ray Charles and Johnny Cash! It is thanks to his contacts and experience that the Festival was able to attract famous artists such as Céline Dion, Gilles Vigneault, Alannah Myles and Robert Charlebois.
Claire vaive receives the Jean Boileau Award!
For this 25th anniversary, the Jean Boileau award, which is given once a year to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the Festival, goes to Claire Vaive. As the founding president, Claire Vaive managed to convince local elected officials, volunteers, associations and businesses of the need to create an event for Gatineau residents and families that would give them a chance to get together and that would position the region on the national and international playing field.
Walter Grishkot receives the Jean Boileau award!
The Jean Boileau award for this 24th edition goes posthumously to Walter Grishkot, founder and organizer over 30 years of the Adirondack Balloon Festival (Glens Falls, New York).
Walter Grishkot, who died in May 2011 at the age of 85, was a powerful ally in promoting the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival among American pilots and media.
Lyne Leduc receives the Jean Boileau Award
The 23rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival Jean Boileau Award goes to Lyne Leduc. This is the third time that the Festival gives this award to a pillar of this great gathering. Ms. Leduc has been looking after wristband-passport pre-sales and sales since the very first editions of the Festival. “A lot has changed,” she points out. « Every year, we make adjustments to better meet the needs of our guests and volunteers. » She adds: « I’ve always enjoyed what I do, working with a terrific team. »
Jean-Claude Barbe receives the Jean Boileau Award
For a second year, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival will be giving the Jean Boileau award to a pillar of this cultural event. This year’s honouree is Jean-Claude Barbe.
Mr. Barbe has been in charge of the electrical and plumbing crews at the site since the very first edition. This is an enormous responsibility when you consider the size of the site!
« I am very fortunate to have been part of the Festival since its beginning and to have had the chance to work with people I greatly appreciate », indicated the man of the hour.
Carolyn Mitrow - First Winner of the Jean Boileau Award
Carolyn, a Chelsea resident who has been a hot air balloon pilot since 1987, was for many years involved with the hot air balloon side of the Festival, among other things as the flight director. Her leadership and skills played a large part in the Festival’s growth.
Ms. Mitrow receives her award, a work by artist Monique Savard, from Jean Boileau, the founder of the event, and Alain Fredette, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, on the Molson Dry Main Stage, on Saturday, August 30, 2008.