History

Mission Statement

For 60 years now, the mission of the Québec Winter Carnival in collaboration with Loto-Québec has been to organize an annual winter celebration as well as create a first-rate economic, social and tourism event that all Quebecers could be proud of.

The Largest Winter Carnival in the World

Since the beginning of our French colony, the habitants of New France created a rowdy tradition of getting together just before Lent to eat, drink and be merry. The custom of celebrating from the end of January until mid-February has long been popular.

The first large winter Carnival in Quebec City, the world’s snow capital, took place in 1894. Often faced with winter’s hardships, the city’s population reinvented this popular tradition with a winter celebration that warmed up the hearts of all of it revellers. Interrupted by two wars, then the economic crisis of 1929, the Carnival was held sporadically until the second half of the century. In 1954, in the context of the economic development of the Old Capital, a group of business people re-launched the festivities. That year, Bonhomme was born and elected the event’s representative. The first official edition of the Québec Winter Carnival took place in 1955. The Carnival snowballed into an undeniable manifestation for the entire Québec City population, and was an important vehicle for tourism and economical activity in the city.

From one winter to the next, the Carnival enriched its activity program. We have since added even more popular activities, such as winter sports, snow sculptures, and activities based on the traditional Québec lifestyle, such as canoe races and dogsled races. The Québec Winter Carnival is the largest winter carnival in the world today, and is third on the List of Top Carnivals after the famous carnivals in Rio and New Orleans.

From 1893 to 2014

Source : Jean Provencher – Le Carnaval de Québec, la grande fête de l’hiver

In the early 1890s, the North American economy was very slow. The Québec City area was particularly hard hit with the definitive closing of its shipyards and emerging problems in the shoe manufacturing industry. On October 19, 1893, the owner of the Quebec Daily Telegraph, Frank Carrel, used the columns of his newspaper to launch the idea of a new carnival in Québec City.

1894

In 1894, the float for the Timmons cider and carbonated beverage manufacturer is ready for the parade on the Côte d’Abraham.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - 1894

1928

In the winter of 1928 on the corner of Buade and Des Jardins streets, the Club Automobile de Québec is justifiably proud of the ice sculpture in front of its offices.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - 1928

1940

On a beautiful sunny afternoon in 1940 near Château Frontenac a dog handler trains his dog sledding team for a race.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - 1940

1954

Bundled up in warm clothing, the founders of the Carnival proudly wear the arrowhead sash as the snow falls on Quebec City. Louis-Philippe Plamondon in the middle, Wilbrod Bherer on his right and Louis Paré on his left.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - 1954

1955

First edition of the contemporary Québec Winter Carnival. Creation of the effigy. Bonhomme Carnaval makes his appearance surrounded by duchesses; the one who sells the most tickets will be proclaimed Queen of the Carnival. Until 1972, the Ice Palace was built in Place D’Youville.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Effigie de 1955

1956

A great deal of preparation went into this magnificent masquerade party, held at the Coliseum.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - 1956 - Troisième photo

A huge Mardi Gras celebration at Port Saint-Louis.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - 1956 - Quatrième photo

1957

The Quebec City area is divided into seven duchies. Each duchy is headed by a duchess. The duchy that sells the most tickets in favour of its duchess will win her the title of Queen of the Carnival. Until 1996, a downhill torchlight ski was held 31 times in Lac-Beauport.

1958

The ice canoe race takes place under the worst conditions in the history of this classic. Only 4 of the 21 teams make it to the finish line.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Course de canot de 1958

1959

To replace draw tickets, a new financing concept was created: the Carnival Candle. For the first time, the queen was elected through a random draw.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Première Bougie du Carnaval en 1959

The soapbox derby is now part of the program.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Course de tacot en 1959

1960

In 1960, Carnival Street was born.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - La rue du Carnaval en 1960

For the first time, Québec’s Premiere launched the Carnival. The residents of Sainte-Thérèse Street created many snow or ice sculptures, and this location became known as Carnival Street. The new International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament is included in the program. Until 1999, the floats were exhibited almost every year to let people get a closer look at them.

1961

First barrel-jumping competitions.

Until 1997, motorcycle races on the ice were held occasionally.

1962

In 1962, the Palace had a futuristic look. Word has it that the designer, architect André Robitaille, was inspired by a photograph of an iceberg taken in 1908 by Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier during one of his expeditions to the Far North. The workshops were built on Joly Street and still exist today.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Palais de glace avec allure futuriste en 1962

1963

Barrel jumping, part of the Carnival until the late 1980s, is now a sport of the past. Starting in 1940, most of the Canadian champions were Quebeckers. In 1963, for the first time, the Queen of the Carnival was crowned outdoors on the race track of the exhibition grounds. Never before had the Carnival attracted such huge crowds.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Saut de barils en 1963

1964

The name of Bonhomme Carnaval and his image become registered trademarks. Voûtes Chez Ti-Père opened on Sainte-Thérèse Street.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Ouverture des Voûtes chez Ti-Père en 1964

1965

Creation of Place Carnaval in lower town’s Victora Park. Many Carnival activities were held here. A Grand Prix auto race was held until 1978, and then again from 1984 to 1994. Until 1995, a chess tournament was held 18 times. Creation of the Order of Bonhomme.

1966

The first women’s team participated in the canoe race. In the summer, for the first public consultation on the Carnival, thousands of families received a questionnaire inviting them to share their opinions. The exercise was repeated the following year. Creation of the Order of Duchesses.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Première équipe féminine de course de canot en 1966

1967

Following the public consultations, the coronation of the queen was once again presented during a lightshow.

1968

In the annual report, this edition of the Carnival was called the “Carnival of Innovations”. There was the creation of inter-duchy games, the return of old activities like the Regency Ball, the parade of floats made by children and the big bonfire on the Plains of Abraham.

1969

Visit with Bonhomme at the Institut Saint-Joseph in Lévis.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Bonhomme à l’Institut Saint-Joseph à Lévis en 1969

1970

A new tradition is born: closing the event with a fireworks display. Until 1993, snowmobiling races were held sporadically. Bonhomme Carnaval became an ambassador and started travelling to promote the Québec Winter Carnival.

1971

The Ice Palace of 1971. That year, the Carnival had to deal with many snowstorms. The coronation of the queen was televised for the first time live from the Grand Théâtre, which had just opened.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Le Palais de glace de 1971

1972

From this point on, the Gregorian calendar was no longer used to set the dates for the Carnival. It would end on a Sunday evening rather than on Mardi Gras.

1973

The Ice Palace was built on the esplanade in front of the Parliament Building, rather than in Place D’Youville. That same year, on this spot called Place du Carnaval, the International Snow Sculpture Competition was held for the first time. That year, Quebeckers measured up to the French, the Americans and the Japanese. The official name of the event was modified as well: Carnaval d’hiver de Québec became Carnaval de Québec.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Palais de glace sur l’esplanade, devant l’Hôtel du Parlement en 1973

1974

At the 1973 and 1974 carnivals, Bobino (Guy Sanche) and Bobinette, characters from the much loved children’s TV show, came to Quebec City to present four shows at the Drill Hall. Bobinette disguised himself as Bonhomme Carnaval, complete with a red tuque and an arrowhead sash…

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Bobino (Guy Sanche) et Bobinette, déguisée en Bonhomme Carnaval en 1974

Two weeks before the 20th Carnival opened, the roof of the Joly Street workshop collapsed under the weight of snow and ice. Six floats, including that of Bonhomme and the Duchesses were lost, as well as 174 clown heads, 2 mermaids and 1 dolphin. The public’s sympathy manifested in record sales for the Carnival candle. Close to 346,000 candles were purchased. The Western breakfast was held for the first time. Until 1985, a moustache competition was also part of the festivities.

1975

January 1975. Total joy in the Coliseum. Bonhomme heads in for the face-off. The Carnival starts in a few days. The Nordiques have just acquired their star player, Marc Tardif (no 8). On his right, Jean-Claude Garneau. On his left, defence player Pierre Roy and goalie Serge Aubry. Behind Bonhomme, masked by his shoulder, defence player Mario Marois.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Au Colisée, Bonhomme s’avance pour la mise au jeu en 1975

Creation of a new activity called The Break, on Friday from noon till midnight. Many employers give their employees time off so they can go dancing at Quebec City Convention Centre. The event continues to be held until 1986, sometimes late into the night. The Innu participate for the first time in the International Snow Sculpture Competition.

1976

A speed skating championship was held until 1992.

1977

Until 1991, the Carnival offered a children’s sculpture competition.

1978

Bonhomme goes to Poste-de-la-Baleine (became Kuujjuarapik in 1980), on the shores of Hudson Bay to make a quick visit to the Inuit who won the International Snow Sculpture Competition.

1979

Until 1992, the Palace was made of snow since there was no ice supplier in the area.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - 25e anniversaire du Carnaval, palais en neige - 1979

This year is the big 25th anniversary celebration.

1980

Creation of two new Carnival sites: Place des Enfants (1st winter playground dedicated to children) and Place du Manège (for Carnival get-togethers, such as social and public gatherings).

1981

The 1981 Ice Palace.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Palais de glace en 1981

The Effigy of Bonhomme Carnaval is sold everywhere in the Quebec City area.

An eccentric hairstyle and makeup contest was held until 1991.

1982

Bonhomme goes to Acapulco, Mexico, to represent the Carnival and Quebec City during a tourism industry conference.

1983

Until 1994, the wax candle is replaced by a “scratch-and-win” candle, similar to a lottery ticket.

The first Night Parade in Charlesbourg.

1984

The Carnival celebrates its 30th anniversary.

1985

The first Business Leaders’ Breakfast is held.

1986

For the first time, because of abundant snowfall, the Carnival Candle Draw is postponed.

From now on, women’s teams participate in the canoe race.

1987

The snow bath becomes part of the program.

1988

The Carnival receives a visit from some Hollywood celebrities: international media coverage increases.

1989

For the first time, a woman becomes President of the Carnival.

1990

Place des Enfants is at Cartier-Brébeuf Park, but moves to the Plains of Abraham and takes the name Place de la Famille.

1991

All Carnival activity ceases on Sainte-Thérèse Street.

1992

The International Snow Sculpture Competition moves to the Plains of Abraham.

1993

The Palace is once again built of ice rather than snow.

1994

The Carnival celebrates its 40th anniversary.

1995

Return to the wax candle.

1996

Carnival managers choose to have a winter festival for the general public, with an emphasis on family. The activities are grouped together on two major sites: Esplanade de l’Hôtel du Parlement and the Plains of Abraham.

1997

One of the women’s teams in the 1997 canoe race.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Équipes féminines de la course en canot de 1997
In the front port side of the boat, starboard, Dominique Grenier; back portside, Suzie Ketene; starboard, Nathalie Dufour. Captain: Stéphanie Drouin.

The move to making the Carnival more family-oriented begins. Disappearance of the duchies, the duchesses and the queen. The duchies are replaced by bonhomries.

1998

The knuks, mischievous little jokers from the North, make their appearance. These teasing and cheeky characters have the talents of magicians, dancers and pranksters. The arrival of a title sponsor.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Les knuks, petits êtres moqueurs venus du Nord apparus en 1998

1999

Because of the importance volunteers, the human resources department was created to improve organization (recruitment, training, recognition activities).

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Feux d'artifice en 1999

2000

A third permanent site opens at Place D’Youville. The Carnival decides to manage its own merchandise. The expertise of the Carnival Workshops makes it possible to take outside contracts.

2001

The Carnival wants to be the reference for winter tourism festivals in North America.

2002

The program is centred more on interactive activities (giant soccer game, ice fishing, snow sculptures). Creation of the Confrérie des bretelles de la bougie.

2003

Despite the coldest temperatures on record in the past ten years, the 2003 edition was a great success.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - L'édition 2003 remporte un grand succès

2004

The Carnival celebrates its 50th anniversary.

2008

The Carnival is the very first event to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. A new Parade is specially created for the occasion.

2010

The Carnival concentrates its activities on 2 main sites: Place Desjardins and Place Loto-Québec. Place Hydro-Québec is replaced by a huge outdoor stage on the Plains of Abraham, Scène Hydro-Québec, where many shows are presented.

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Scène extérieure Hydro-Québec sur les plaines d'Abraham

2011

A Ferris wheel was set up in the heart of winter at Place Desjardins on the Plains of Abraham, providing fabulous views for Carnival-goers!

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Une grande roue en plein hiver en 2011

2012

Bonhomme’s Palace is moved to be in the heart of the festivities, at Place Desjardins, on the Plains of Abraham. A huge dome, igloo-shaped, allows people to dance in a festive atmosphere!

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Les cérémonies d'ouverture de 2012

2013

The project LUMOCITÉ, projection mapping, is presented for the first time in four places in the city center. In addition, a huge structure of Bonhomme in front of the Parliament and Festibière are among the novelties!

Histoire du Carnaval de Québec - Lumocité, évènement urbain illuminesque, spectacle de lumières sur bâtiment en 2013

2014

We are there! :)

Carnival’s glossary (in French only)

Produced by the Office de la langue française

QUÉBEC WINTER CARNIVAL DATES SINCE 1955
Years Carnival Dates
1955 January 1st to February 22
1956 January 29 to February 14
1957 January 13 to March 15
1958 February 1st to February 18
1959 January 27 to February 10
1960 February 13 to March 1st
1961 January 26 to February 14
1962 February 15 to March 6
1963 February 6 to February 26
1964 January 23 to February 11
1965 February 11 to March 2
1966 February 10 to February 22
1967 January 26 to February 7
1968 February 14 to February 22
1969 February 5 to February 18
1970 January 28 to February 10
1971 February 4 to February 23
1972 February 2 to February 13
1973 February 22 to March 4
1974 February 7 to February 17
1975 February 6 to February 16
1976 February 5 to February 15
1977 February 3 to February 13
1978 February 2 to February 12
1979 February 1st to February 11
1980 February 7 to February 17
1981 February 5 to February 15
1982 February 4 to February 14
1983 February 3 to February 13
1984 February 2 to February 12
1985 February 7 to February 17
1986 February 6 to February 16
1987 February 5 to February 15
1988 February 4 to February 14
1989 February 2 to February 12
1990 February 1st to February 11
1991 February 7 to February 17
1992 February 6 to February 16
1993 February 4 to February 14
1994 February 3 to February 13
1995 February 2 to February 12
1996 January 26 to February 11
1997 January 31 to February 16
1998 January 30 to February 15
1999 January 29 to February 14
2000 January 28 to February 13
2001 January 26 to February 11
2002 February 1st to February 17
2003 January 31 to February 16
2004 January 30 to February 15
2005 January 28 to February 13
2006 January 27 to February 12
2007 January 26 to February 11
2008 February 1st to February 17
2009 January 30 to February 15
2010 January 29 to February 14
2011 January 28 to February 13
2012 January 27 to February 12
2013 February 1st to February 17
2014 January 31 to February 16
2015 January 30 to February 15