Our history

History

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.

1894
1894

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

1928
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.

1940
1940

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

1954
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.

1955
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.

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
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.

1959
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. The soapbox derby is now part of the program.

1960
1960

In 1960, Carnival Street was born. 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
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.

1963
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.

1964
1964

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

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
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.

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
1969

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

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
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.

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
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.

1974
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…

1975
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 Tremblay. On his left, defence player Pierre Roy and goalie Serge Aubry. Behind Bonhomme, masked by his shoulder, defence player Mario Marois.

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
1979

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

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
1981

The 1981 Ice Palace. The Effigy of Bonhomme Carnaval is sold everywhere in the Quebec City area.

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

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
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.

1999
1999

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

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
2003

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

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
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.

2011
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!

2012
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!

2013
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!v

2014
2014

The Carnival is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The Duchesses are back after 18 years. The Duchies are divided by Québec boroughs. The Ice Palace will once again be erected in front of the Parliament. For the first time, the public will get to visit Bonhomme’s quarters. Eight Carnival streets have been added to the festive circuit (Saint-Joseph Street, Saint-Jean Street, Cartier Street, Quartier Petit-Champlain, Pointe-aux-lièvres, Grande Allée, Faubourg Saint-Jean, 3rd Avenue).

2015
2015

Bonhomme’s Winterland will be located on the Plains of Abraham. The Bulles, Whisky et Cie event is being held for the first time this year and is quite successful. The Parade has been renewed with a Nordic theme to it.

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