1956 Quebec Winter Carnival gaiety
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.
These are the last days before Lent's reticence so everything is big: a massive Bonhomme snow sculpture and huge crowds watching a canoe race on the St. Lawrence River. Skilled oarsmen in waders and flannels trudge through the water's broken ice slabs and hop into their vessels. Will the Lachance brothers take the race's $500 prize again this year?
• In 1894, local merchants organized skating contests, dogsled competitions and canoe races to make severe Quebec City winters seem more bearable and to boost spending during a North American economic crisis.
• Quebec City residents held early carnivals irregularly because of the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression. The 1955 carnival was more elaborate, held once a year and added a talking snowman mascot Le Bonhomme Carnaval and his palatial ice estate.
• The dates of the carnival vary. It lasts about two weeks during January, February or March and always ends before Roman Catholic Lent begins.
• The grandest carnival ball, originally called the Regency Ball, was renamed the Queen's Ball in the late 1960s and became Bonhomme's Ball in 1996.
•French coureurs de bois illegally traded alcohol for fur with native people along North American trade routes from 1660 to 1695.
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: March 4, 1956
Song credit: "Chanson du Carnaval" by Roger Vézina and Pierre Petel, SOCAN.
Last updated: February 8, 2013
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
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