Montreal is poised to be festival central this summer, recession or not. There will be music and comedy and much more in the city, which will also see the anniversaries of several of its most successful events.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival is turning 30. The Cirque du soleil, the international fireworks festival and the Montreal Bike Fest, which culminates with the Tour de l’ile cycling event, all turn 25. But that only scratches the surface of what’s going on.
Marie-Josee Pinsonneault, a spokeswoman for Tourism Montreal, reels off a list of attractions, including an exhibition on pirates, an avant-garde music festival and a beer festival where more than 400 types of brew can be sampled.
“I think it will be a rediscovery of all the great opportunities, venues and festivals that Montreal offers every summer,” she said of the jam-packed events calendar. She acknowledged travellers may be have their wallets on their minds this year, “But I’m sure everybody will need a bit of holidays and everybody will need something to change their minds.”
She added that the currency exchange rate should also boost Montreal’s tourism industry; a quarter of the city’s tourists hail from the U.S., while half are Canadian.
The jazz festival and the Just for Laughs comedy festival are two of the anchors of the season.
Bruce Hills, head of the Just for Laughs festival, says his event will soon announce the big-name headliners already booked.
“We plan on a big, star-studded, fantastic event for the summer,” Hills said, although he acknowledged it may have to be fine-tuned if some corporate sponsors who have not yet confirmed their presence opt to bow out.
Hills said Just for Laughs will still offer economical package deals, which he expects to be “even more in demand with the (economic) climate the way it is.”
About a dozen shows have been announced for the jazz festival with more to come. Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck, bluesman Buddy Guy and the festive Pink Martini are among those on the bill.
A spokesperson said all sponsors are on board this year, and organizers are even adding an extra day this year, as it does for every five-year anniversary.
The prestigious Rogers Cup tennis tournament is on tap again starting Aug. 10 and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will echo with the sound of roaring race car engines as NASCAR returns to the city on Aug. 29-30.
Marquee events aside, travellers to Montreal also have an abundance of restaurants, clubs, stores, bars, the Biodome and museums at their disposal.
Among the attractions, the Pointe-a-Calliere archeology and history museum is offering a look at pirates through 150 objects, giving a glimpse into the lives of privateers from the 16th to 19th centuries.
A full itinerary
Some of the major events in Montreal this summer:
• Cirque du soleil, April 23-July 12, www.cirquedusoleil.com.
• Montreal Bike Fest, May 30-June 7, velo.qc.ca.
• Mondial de la biere beer festival, June 3-7, festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca.
• Nuit blanche sur tableau noir visual arts street festival, June 4-7, www.tableaunoir.com.
• Montreal Fringe Festival, June 11-21, www.montrealfringe.ca.
• L’International des Feux international fireworks festival, June 13-Aug. 15, www.internationaldesfeuxloto-quebec.com
• Montreal International Jazz Festival, July 1-12, www.montrealjazzfest.com.
• Just for Laughs International Comedy Festival, July 16-26, www.hahaha.com.
• Les FrancoFolies de Montreal, July 30-Aug. 9, www.francofolies.com.
• Rogers Cup tennis tournament, Aug. 8-16, www.rogerscup.com.
• NASCAR Nationwide Series, Aug. 29-30, www.circuitgillesvilleneuve.ca.