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Quebec Winter Carnival just 'a big drunk': tourism minister

It was a merry fete celebrating pea soup and tourtière. Revellers rejoiced in the culture of les habitants when the Quebec Winter Carnival first began in 1894. In 1955, residents of Quebec City revived the festival with new traditions in the old city. Skilled canoeists raced on the half-frozen St. Lawrence and artists built ice sculptures. But over the years purists say Le Carnaval de Québec has strayed too far from its roots, using gimmicks from Bonhomme to Brooke Shields to attract crowds.

The new tourism minister says Carnaval has strayed so far from its 1894 roots that the city feels like a "jungle" on one big binge. Yves Duhaîme wants to revive the traditions of the original carnival when French culture was the focus. The modern carnival tends toward "beautiful girls in bikinis with Colonel Sanders advertising," Duhaîme says in this CBC Radio interview.

One positive side is the tourism. Visitors from 12 countries compete in the ice sculpting competitions. The minister says these kinds of competitions draw even more travellers and wealth to the province.
• Organizers sell candles to raise money for Carnaval. In 1979 they sold 224,000 candles, making $450,000.

Carnaval puts on two costly parades to open and close the festivities. Organizers cancelled the 1996 opening parade to shave $50,000 off the $3-million budget. Locals said this move showed the carnival had lost touch with its roots.

• Before the 1970s, Carnaval promoters relied mainly on word-of-mouth publicity. An active tourism campaign since then attracts about one million visitors each year from all over the world.

Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: Feb. 9, 1977
Guest(s): Yves Duhaime
Host: Harry Brown, Maxine Crook
Duration: 4:53

Last updated: February 1, 2012

Page consulted on February 28, 2014

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