Circus, Fireworks and Festivals à la Montréal

Summertime is festival time in Montreal
Photo: Montreal Tourism

MONTREAL, July 6, 2012 – “What kind of circus is this, anyway,” says my nine-year-old, clutching the red plastic noses that were given to him at the door. 

He’s understandably confused. We told him we were taking him to a circus, but there’s not a big top, tight rope or flashy outfit in sight. Instead there’s a hip DJ, an exuberant crowd, and two teams of performers battling againstone another in a game of circus improv.

It doesn’t take long before we are all cheering for our favorite team as they contort, juggle, and perform gravity-defying feats in an attempt to one-up each other in unrehearsed challenges and win over the voting crowd. Whenthe referee makes an unpopular call, the crowd boos their displeasure and tosses red plastic noses at him.

“Oh! That’s what they’re for!” cries Justin and hurls them onto the stage with gusto.

The performance was one of 80 events last year at the Montréal Complètement Cirque, one of the city’s newest festivals. It has quickly made a name for itself,  cementing Montreal’s reputation as a circus destination. It is, ofcourse, the birth place of the Cirque du Soleil and home of TOHU, the national circus school.

As we leave the circus improv venue, we’re greeted with yet another thrill. The night sky bursts with a symphony of light, wowing the crowd  that has gathered along the waterfront and Jacques-Cartier Bridge.  The InternationalFireworks, one of the biggest and best pyrotechnic displays anywhere, has seen participating countries competing since 1985.

North American, but with a European flavor, Montreal with its cultural attractions and 350-year history is a compelling destination any time of year, but the summer months are special.

Winters are long in the Canadian city, so when summer finally arrives, it is something to celebrate. And Montrealers do know how to throw a party. From mid-July to mid-August alone, the city offers 11 festivals reveling ineverything from comedy and cinema, to the world of fashion and electronic music. Many of the events are free, taking place in the parks, streets and  the ‘Place des Festivals’, a 7500m public square and a 235-jetfountain, dedicated to festivals and urban entertainment.

“Can we move to Montreal?” my son asks. 

Not likely, but we’ll definitely visit again.

Here is a sampling of the festivals to discover this summer:

Just for Laughs Comedy Festival  (Jul 12-29): This year marks the 30th anniversary of one  of North America’s  most popular comedy festivals. Today’s biggest comedy stars and tomorrow’s big names descend upon the city,spawning laughter and comic mayhem throughout the city.

Montreal Completement Cirque (Jul 5-Jul 15): This year’s fete has a Scandinavian theme, with presentations from Sweden and Finland and featuring many free or reasonably priced events. 

L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec Fireworks Festival (Jun 30-Aug 3): Pay for front-row seating at La Ronde Amusement Park or do what the locals do and walk up the Jacques-Cartier Bridge for a choice spot, whichcloses itself off to car traffic from 8 p.m.

Festival International Nuits d’Afrique (Jul 10-22): The 26th annual festival presents music and culture from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America for 13 days, with 30 indoor concerts and 4 days of free concerts andactivities for the whole family at the Village des Nuits d’Afrique.

Fashion and Design Festival (Aug 1-4): This highly glamorous event brings together the leading international fashion labels, a host of national designers, exciting musical performances and other special events. Shoppinganyone?

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival (Aug 3-5): This year’s rocking line-up includes The Black Keys, Snoop Dog, Justice Florence and the Passion Pit


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Jennifer Merrick

After traveling the world teaching English as a Second Language, Jennifer has now 'settled down' in Toronto. Her feet continue to itch and she now travels whenever she can with her family and writes about their adventures in numerous publications, including Buffalo News, VIA Destinations, Montreal Families, Chill Magazine and Today's Parent. Her blog helps kids plan and get excited about their travels. You can also follow Jennifer on Twitter @jenmerrick


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