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.
In 1894, the float for the Timmons cider and carbonated beverage manufacturer is ready for the parade on the Côte d’Abraham.
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.
On a beautiful sunny afternoon in 1940 near Château Frontenac a dog handler trains his dog sledding team for a race.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First barrel-jumping competitions. Until 1997, motorcycle races on the ice were held occasionally.
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.
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.
The name of Bonhomme Carnaval and his image become registered trademarks. Voûtes Chez Ti-Père opened on Sainte-Thérèse Street.
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.
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.
Following the public consultations, the coronation of the queen was once again presented during a lightshow.
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.
Visit with Bonhomme at the Institut Saint-Joseph in Lévis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
A speed skating championship was held until 1992.
Until 1991, the Carnival offered a children’s sculpture competition.
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.
Until 1992, the Palace was made of snow since there was no ice supplier in the area.
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).
The 1981 Ice Palace. The Effigy of Bonhomme Carnaval is sold everywhere in the Quebec City area.
Bonhomme goes to Acapulco, Mexico, to represent the Carnival and Quebec City during a tourism industry conference.
Until 1994, the wax candle is replaced by a “scratch-and-win” candle, similar to a lottery ticket. The first Night Parade in Charlesbourg.
The Carnival celebrates its 30th anniversary.
The first Business Leaders’ Breakfast is held.
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.
The snow bath becomes part of the program.
The Carnival receives a visit from some Hollywood celebrities: international media coverage increases.
For the first time, a woman becomes President of the Carnival.
Place des Enfants is at Cartier-Brébeuf Park, but moves to the Plains of Abraham and takes the name Place de la Famille.
All Carnival activity ceases on Sainte-Thérèse Street.
The International Snow Sculpture Competition moves to the Plains of Abraham.
The Palace is once again built of ice rather than snow.
The Carnival celebrates its 40th anniversary.
Return to the wax candle.
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.
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.
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.
Because of the importance volunteers, the human resources department was created to improve organization (recruitment, training, recognition activities).
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.
The Carnival wants to be the reference for winter tourism festivals in North America.
The program is centred more on interactive activities (giant soccer game, ice fishing, snow sculptures). Creation of the Confrérie des bretelles de la bougie.
Despite the coldest temperatures on record in the past ten years, the 2003 edition was a great success.
The Carnival celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The Carnival is the very first event to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. A new Parade is specially created for the occasion.
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.
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!
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!
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
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).
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.