The 31 December in Quebec city: the construction of a tradition

Photo: City of Québec
A ferris wheel and a zip line are present to animate the site since the 27th of December.

In Quebec, it will be ten years this year that we invite people by the thousands to converge at the center of the city to get through the year in the music and the fireworks. Zoom in on the construction of a tradition, imagined at the celebration of the 400th.

It all started on December 31, 2007, during the holding of the inaugural spectacle of the 400th anniversary, at place d’youville. Packed, the mayor Régis Labeaume told reporters that ” every 31st of December, there will be in the future an official tally to Quebec, a little like Times Square. “


Ironically, the party at place d’youville was rather unsuccessful and has led to the hiring of Daniel Gélinas and the rescue of the 400th that we know. However, the idea of a ritual of crowd 31 survived.


The following year, a new event convener closing the 400th, this time at the parc George-V, next to the Grande Allée. We would have been able to stick to this, but the mayor Labeaume wanted, he said, to prolong the effect of the 400th.


Known for the annual feast of the opening of the terraces on Grande Allée, the producer André Verreault is summoned to the town hall. “The mayor has asked me :” what is it that you would you, on 31 December ? ” I tell him that I would rigodons. In my family, the tradition is that my mother did play rigodons December 31. He woke up in his office, he has made a few “stepettes” [sic] and said “yes”. “


No kidding ? Of stepettes ? “I swear to you ! It has really happened like that. “Ten years later, the traditional music still has its place in the festivities of the 31, in more of the scene dedicated to electronic music. “It has evolved because of more young people who demand a different style of music,” said Mr. Verreault. “Now, we have two scenes : a strictly devoted to the traditional music and the other to electronic music with any visual equipment that goes with it. “


It would also be recalled that, originally, it was not possible to drink alcohol on the site. A measurement is taken, it was said, to avoid overflows. However, since last year, the city has eased the rules and it is now possible to buy on the spot. No question, however, bring his little caribou home. Police officers at the entrance to the site make sure of it.


Additions of activities to the interior


Focused initially in the area of restaurants and bars of the main Alley from the Hotel, the Concorde, the event was greatly expanded with time. Since last year, the electro scene is located at the gates of Old Quebec, between the Parliament and the fortifications.


A ferris wheel and a zip line are also added to the attractions and allow you to animate the site from the 27th December. And this, with a large budget. In 2009-2010, Action promotion Grande Allée was based on a budget of approximately $ 150,000 of the city, but ten years later, Mr. Verreault juggle with a budget of nearly $ 800,000 in grants from the city and the government of Quebec and sponsorships.


The Day of the Year in Quebec city may it continue to grow ? “It will not have the choice to become bigger in my opinion because it has more applications. At this time, the hotels in the area are complete. We always try to have more activities. I start to think to offer on the inside too. “


And next year, a section of the Armoury will be ” dedicated to the more timid who want to pay to be in the heat and see the fireworks “.


Because it was often cold on the 31st in recent years. “In 2013, at the coming of DJ Champion, it was -38 degrees Celsius “, said Mr. Verreault. “Despite everything it was full, people dress ! “Anyway, he decided this year to build a cabin to protect the DJ from the cold.


The producer has also the habit of the unexpected. Last year, the guest artist, DJ, Madeon, has missed his plane and arrived on site at 22: 45… ” I asked a DJ who is well known to Quebec to interrupt his holiday and come down with his equipment and he has done it. “Just in case.


One thing is for certain, we want to make this festival a tourist attraction. Last year, the city commissioned the firm Leger to probe the visitors of the site between 27 and 31 December. The analysis revealed that 60% of people came from outside of Quebec and 40 % in the surrounding region. Among the tourists, 21 % came from the rest of Quebec (Montreal particularly), 11 % in the rest of Canada (primarily Ontario), 13 % of the United States and 12 % from abroad.


Among all respondents, just over half had heard of the event even if it was not the main reason they came to Quebec.


Last year, it was estimated that over 150 000 people had visited the site the evening of the 31. In short, it is big, but this is not Time Square. “Time Square, there are still a million people,” notes Mr. Verreault, stating that it is ” another way to celebrate. There, the people reserve in advance, go out in the paddock and expect to see the ball go up and the fireworks. For us, it is very participatory. People walk, make the tour of the various sites “.


Another difference, and not the least, the tradition of New Year’s in Time Square dates back to 1907 as what, Québec has still much to do to feed the memories.