Sweeping changes on the way for Quebec City's winter carnival

The Carnaval de Québec — the world's largest winter festival — will take on a whole new look in 2019, with a new consultant, the man behind the ultra-successful Festival d'été de Québec, announcing he'll scrap some of the signature events.

Carnaval de Québec to scrap duchess competition, snow sculpture contest and more

The traditional crowning of a carnival duchess was brought back in 2014, but Daniel Gélinas said the event wasn't popular enough to keep in the lineup. (Daniel Coulombe/Radio-Canada)

The Carnaval de Québec — the world's largest winter festival — will undergo a major overhaul and do away with some of the annual celebration's oldest traditions.

Taking advice from the carnival's new consultant, Daniel Gélinas, organizers have decided to do away with the contest to elect a "duchess" to preside over the parade.

As the ex-impresario of the Festival d'été de Québec, Quebec City's highly successful summer music festival, Gélinas is the man who brought Paul McCartney and Céline Dion to the city for its 400th anniversary.

He was named a consultant to the Carnaval de Québec last fall.

Gélinas said the event no longer sparks enough enthusiasm.

He wants to focus instead on creating experiences of international calibre, with impressive parades and a new and improved palace for "Bonhomme," the carnival's snowman mascot.

"We want to bring back events to the carnival that will make a difference," he said. "That means investing in things that will stir emotion, pull people in and show beyond a doubt that there is potential to attract big crowds."
The ice canoe race has become one of the most sought-after events of the carnival and will be back in 2019. (Radio-Canada)
The carnival will no longer host its annual snow sculpture competition.

Most events will be centralized in the city's Upper Town. That means the Charlesbourg neighbourhood will miss out on the evening parade that usually winds through the streets of Lower Town throughout the three-week-long festival.

Gélinas said Charlesbourg's steep, narrow streets lined with telephone poles made it difficult to host a parade that meets the grandeur and scale he has in mind.

Oh yes, and next year, Carnaval will only last ten days.

Focus on Bonhomme's palace

Quebec City's Upper Town, on the other hand, will host two parades along Grande-Allée.

That location will allow for feats of acrobatics, pyrotechnics or awe-inspiring spectacles, Gélinas said, such as having people sculpt ice with chainsaws as the procession moves along the street.

The event will also cancel its traditional sale of candles which must be burnt down to a nub in order to reveal whether the buyer had won a prize.

Volunteers from roughly 100 community groups used to sell them, keeping a portion of the profits for themselves.

Instead, part of the sale of the event badges that allow the public to gain access to the carnival sites will go to the non-profit groups.

Organizers of Quebec City's winter carnival say Bonhomme Carnaval's ice palace will be one of the centerpiece's of the event. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

Gélinas said his main vision for the coming years is to turn Bonhomme Carnaval's ice palace into a "playful" and "fantastic" spectacle, that will incorporate snow sculptures and light displays.

"We want altitude," said Gélinas. "There is the room there to make it explode so that it is awesome."

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said he trusts Gélinas's new approach after seeing what he managed to achieve with the summer festival, making it a world-renowned music event.

"He's a pro," said Labeaume.

Quebec City's tourism board also welcomed the idea of centralizing activities in Upper Town to avoid spreading carnival-goers too thin across the city.

General manager André Roy said he hopes this enthusiasm will persuade more locals to join in.

"Residents have to love their carnival to convince tourists to love it as well," he said.

With files from Radio-Canada