International de Montgolfières de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu
5 Chemin de l’Aéroport
Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec J3B 7B5
Québec is a province that loves air sports. It’s very common to see paragliders, hand gliders, and other air vehicles in the sky when you drive around outside the island of Montréal, something I never saw when I was growing up in the Toronto suburbs. So it only makes sense that this province would host a balloon festival every summer in the form of Festival de Montgolfières (Festival of Balloons) in the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, 40 minutes south-east of Montréal. I have a friend who is a big fan of balloons and blimps, and since we didn’t make it to the festival last year we made sure to catch the event on the last day of the 2013 festival.
There is a lot happening at the festival in addition to the flight of balloons every night at 6 pm. The festival hosts a sprawling children’s play land on the grounds of the airport of the National Defence training quarters. Hence, the festival is very family friendly as there are activities for children of all ages. But even if you are taller than wee height, you can enjoy the carnival games and rides including a ferris wheel and spinning contraptions, such as the one that had me throwing up about ten times once we got back on safe ground. (My friend loved the rides, however; she did not throw up.)
Carnival food was the usual fare, serving nothing too exotic for the family-focused palate. However, crowd favourites were poutine — festival grounds was chock full of poutine stands — or freshly fried potato chips. I was hoping there may be something like the cronut burgers at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) this year in Toronto, but the only food stand that got my friend and I excited was the Tim Horton’s outlet to feed our caffeine addiction. The Tim Horton’s corner even included pointillism balloon images made by used coffee cups, and an observatory above the café trailer.
Note: Well It turns out the CNE cronut burgers were contaminated! Well we dodged a bullet on that one.
In the evenings, the festival hosted various music concerts, with this year’s lineup more Québecois with national favourites such as Charles Aznavour. The only international performers I noticed were Owl City and Roger Hodgson of Supertramp, though two years ago the festival was graced with Her Glitterness Ke$sha and LMFAO, which split up soon after their concert at the event. Can we forget that I got to watch Party Rock live happen?
You can also reserve and balloon flights for the morning or evenings, starting at $170.00 CDN. However, the flights are subject to weather conditions, as they may be grounded due to high winds or rain and other inclement weather. Watching the balloons of many fun shapes blow up, fire up, and fly into the sky all at once is actually a pretty incredible sight to behold. We took so many photos of the festivals and balloons, too many to fit into one post, so stay tuned for the next post which will include snaps of the balloons at flight.
The festival is held every summer in mid-August for a week. Admission this year was $20 CDN per adult (family fares and children’s rates are available here), plus $7 CDN for parking. Carnival rides required the purchase of coupons, with 28 tickets costing $30. Most adult rides required 4 coupons per person.