Mission and history

37th edition

From August 29th to September 2nd 2024


The FMG organizes a large-scale event featuring rich and diversified musical programming, predominantly from Quebec, supported by the distinctive character of the hot air balloon and by innovative, immersive and entertaining experiences that attract new audiences and build loyalty among a multigenerational clientele. Consciously committed to responsible and sustainable principles and practices, the Festival’s ambition is to showcase the City of Gatineau in such a way as to generate significant economic, social, cultural and tourism benefits.

With the addition of a third stage and our new FMG Late Nights concept, as well as sunny skies over the 5 days of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, festival-goers were treated to an edition that marked a new chapter in the Festival’s history.

With an attendance of over 225,000, the 36th edition of the FMG broke all records. The Festival generated an estimated $15 million in economic spinoffs for the Outaouais region. The festival attracted a local clientele, with 68% of attendees coming from the Outaouais region. Visitors from outside the Outaouais, who accounted for 32% of the clientele, came from 10 countries, including Germany, Australia, France and the United States.

Tens of thousands of festival-goers turned out every day to sing along to the hits of the artists who graced the FMG’s three stages. Sunday night was undoubtedly the biggest crowd-pleaser, with the fiery presence of NE-YO offering a generous performance to festival-goers already entranced by Dan D-Noy and K.Maro.

The Hydro-Québec Stage livened up the early evening with performances by Jeanick Fournier, Richard Séguin, Claude Dubois and Luce Dufault. On the Loto-Québec Stage, Roxane Bruneau offered her fans an energetic show with a touch of humor. And let’s not forget the Friday night with the Comedy Gala and La patente à Pat, a very special show to celebrate Patrice Bélanger’s 15th anniversary as spokesperson, which brought together all generations with exceptional artists and catchy medleys. The highlight of the evening was the presence of Claude Dubois and several participants from the first season of Survivor Québec, who came to surprise Patrice Bélanger.

Country fans had a field day with Thursday night’s main stage show featuring Matt Lang and Brittany Kennell, plus performances by Phil G. Smith, Justin Legacy and André Varin & Marie-Claude Gagnon in the Festive square. The first edition of the FMG Late Nights was also a resounding success, allowing festival-goers to sing and dance to the sounds of Banx & Ranx, Clay and Friends and Rêve, bringing a breath of fresh air to the Festival.

Weather conditions were kind to hot-air balloons for most of the weekend, making way for 7 of a possible 8 take-offs, the highest quantity in the last decade. In addition to the flights, hot-air balloons were honored in the evening with three Night Glow. A novelty that charmed young and old alike, the multimedia night glow presented every evening transported the crowds into an imaginary world, for the duration of a hot air balloon trip.

Families were delighted by the family activities on site and in the Desjardins Family Zone, in addition to the youth shows presented from Saturday to Monday. The GPW-LPG wrestling gala was once again a great success, attracting curious onlookers and fans alike, as was the exhibition of some 100 vintage and modern cars on Saturday afternoon.

Huge, smiling crowds packed the FMG festival grounds on each of the five days of the event. The 35th edition of the Festival stood out with its large number of spectators on the first night, an unexpectedly high attendance on Sunday night and the busiest Monday in several years, with a total attendance of 135,000 for the 5 days.

The festivities kicked off on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage with a one of a kind show at the FMG by Les Trois Accords to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their album J’aime ta grand-mère with guests FouKi & QuietMike and Marilyne Léonard, preceded by Les Louanges. On Friday night, the collective Nikamu Mamuitun followed by Roch Voisine brought the crowd to its feet. Tristan Guay, the Comedy Gala hosted by Alexandre Bisaillon with Laurent Paquin, Guillaume Pineault, Michelle Desrochers and Mona de Grenoble as well as the group Salebarbes animated the festival-goers who came back in great numbers after the storm. Koriass & Souldia and Wyclef Jean, both offering powerful performances for an ecstatic audience, crowned the closing night of the Festival.

The late afternoon and early evening shows on the Hydro-Québec stage were also impressively well attended, notably those by Guylaine Tanguay and Annie Villeneuve and her guests (Audrey-Louise Beauséjour, Brigitte Boisjoli, Éléonore Lagacé and Romie Lacasse). Regional artists gave amazing performances, as they were an important part of the program. We also saw Sofia Duhaime, Geneviève and Alain, Joffrey Charles and Justin Legacy, Mélisane, Pelch and Claudia Bouvette.

The Musical matinees were back with Laurence Jalbert, preceded by Carolyn Xiao and Ryan Shen, and Matt Holubowski, preceded by Mathieu Bourret. Families also had the chance to see several youth shows: Balloune, Fredo, Ariane Deslions and a dance show with Willow and Yannick and Eliana.

For this 35th edition, no less than one hundred activities and shows for all generations were presented during the Labour Day weekend. In particular, family activities were back in full force at the Parc de la Baie in the afternoons. The Desjardins Family Zone activities, including the new pedal boat zone, as well as the Amusement Park, were very popular with young and old alike. Among the new activities, Gatineau Pro Wrestling presented a huge wrestling gala. Festival spokesperson Patrice Bélanger even joined in the battle royale in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd!

The hot air balloon, an emblematic element of the Festival, was celebrated every day, as part of the stage programming and activities offered on site. Whether it was through the 3 flights that took place from Thursday to Monday or the Night Glow, festival-goers had the opportunity to discover or re-acquaint themselves with hot-air balloons. The pilots were happy to share their passion by answering questions from people curious about hot-air balloons or by allowing several families to fly a few metres above the ground on board a hot-air balloon during the captive flights. The end of each evening was also punctuated by fireworks, much to the delight of festivalgoers!

In order to respect the health measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Festival’s site, just like its formula, was once again redesigned for the 34th edition, which took place from September 2 to 6. 2021.

Thus, 30,000 festival-goers were able to take advantage of the performance site and the amusement park throughout the 5 days of the Festival. The festival-goers were present and happy to have the opportunity to finally get to celebrate together in an “almost” normal festival setting.

On Thursday September 2, the members of Kaïn presented the opening show for this edition of the FMG. The group was preceded by Mehdi Cayenne. Later in the evening, festival-goers were able to dance and sing with Bleu Jeans Bleu, once again preceded by Mehdi Cayenne.

Festival-goers particularly enjoyed the evening of Friday, September 3, as a large crowd attended the Cowboys Fringants show, which was sold out. Earlier in the evening, Matt Lang took the stage, with a magnificent hot air balloons takeoff as a backdrop. The group A Leverage for Mountains performed just before each of these two shows.

On Saturday September 4, more than 10 artists took to the main stage of the FMG. The show by Martin Deschamps and his guests (Breen LeBoeuf, Lou Granger Deschamps, Daniel Boucher, Maroc Calliari, Ricky Paquette and Mélissa Ouimet) raised the crowds, right after Ricky Paquette went on stage. As part of an FMG signature show, Marc Dupré, Ludovick Bourgeois, Roxane Bruneau, Marjo and Brigitte Boisjoli shared the stage to present “Enfin de retour!”. This unique show was preceded by Mia Kelly.

For the last evening show, which took place on Sunday September 5, festival-goers were able to attend the must-see FMG Comedy Gala, hosted by Rita Baga and starring Richardson Zéphir, Korine Côté and Jean-Thomas Jobin. Finally, FouKi and his Zayvités (Koriass, Clay and Friends, Alicia Moffet, Vendou, Quiet Mike and Jay Scott) ended the evening. Two artists from the region also took to the stage: LeFLOFRANCO just before the Comedy Gala and D-Track before the FouKi and his Zayvités show.

New this year, the Hydro-Québec Musical matinees offered the most touching moments, while songs and music gently accompanied daybreak. On Saturday morning, it was Coeur de Pirate, preceded by Yiqi Chen, who played her sweet melodies on the piano. On Sunday, it was Fred Pellerin’s turn, preceded by Charbel Malo, to transport festival-goers into his very unique world.

Among the other successes, the fireworks and the hot air balloons night glow presented each evening, as well as free shows (Ari Cui Cui and Les Échappés) offered for families during the Desjardins Family Day on Monday, September 6, are to be highlighted.

The year 2020 was marked by the global pandemic of COVID-19. As a result, the original FMG format had to be canceled. However, an alternative program was set up to provide entertainment to our beloved Gatineau community.

Les Grands Feux du Casino Lac-Leamy and the FMG joined forces to offer a spectacular moment of happiness. On Saturday, August 15th, 8 fireworks displays simultaneously dazzled the sky from east to west of the city of Gatineau! More than 12,000 pyrotechnic effects were deployed from eight launch sites located throughout the city, and tens of thousands of residents were able to enjoy the show from the comfort of their own backyards.

In addition, three shows were presented virtually as part of the FMG Micro Series.

As such, a unique virtual show brought together emerging artists and those with a long history of popularity. On Friday August 21st, Véronic DiCaire and Geneviève Leclerc, the country stylings of Phil G. Smith and Matt Lang, the folk sounds of Mia Kelly, Geneviève et Alain, De Flore and A Leverage for Mountains, the hip-hop energy of LeFLOFRANCO, the pop and blues rhythms of Luce Dufault and Double Magnum, as well as the madness of our spokesperson, Patrice Bélanger, all took to the stage together.

On Saturday, August 29th, the FMG’s Family Matinee welcomed Daniel Coutu, Gatineau’s favorite magician, and two of his great friends: Kalimba and Bill Bestiole! Dinosaurs and prehistoric insects, lively drums and surprising magic tricks took over the screens!

Festival Goers were also able to enjoy the traditional FMG Comedy Gala in virtual mode. On Saturday, September 4, the incomparable humor and great improvisational talent of Arnaud Soly, the contagious energy of the delirious storyteller Mario Tessier, the simple, slightly left field, but highly effective humor of Maude Landry, as well as the sharp comedic timing of comedian Simon Gouache all shared the spotlight in an unforgettable evening. The Gatineau-based musical and comedy trio Les Gars was also on hand to keep spirits high. The evening was sprinkled with musical performances by Bleu Jeans Bleu, and our spokesperson, Patrice Bélanger’s high energy hosting skills.

In 2019, the FMG got a new look. The site plan was completely redesigned and offered visitors not two, not three, but four stages offering shows of all genres and audiences, from morning until night! The integration of RFID (radio identification) technology for the wristbands increased the security and efficiency of the Festival’s visitor experience.

On Thursday, August 29th, Claude Dubois opened the festivities on the Casino Lac-Leamy stage. This was followed by the traditional comedy gala on the Hydro-Québec stage, with Julien Tremblay, Les Denis Drolet, Philippe Bond, Adib Alkhalidey and Billy Tellier. Rap’s superstar of the hour, LOUD, ended the evening on a high note on the main stage with an adaptation of his mega show at the Bell Center!

On Friday, August 30th, Daniel Bélanger and Ariane Moffatt took to the Hydro-Québec stage while Roxane Bruneau and Canadian rock n roll powerhouse Nickelback had festival goers singing along at the Casino Lac-leamy stage later in the evening!

On Saturday, August 31st, Phil G. Smith and Yoan hit the stage at the Scène Hydro-Québec. Alex Nevsky and his guests, as well as Les Trois Accords performed on the main stage for a memorable musical evening!

On Sunday, September 1st, the FMG hosted the acclaimed Belle & Bum television show to celebrate Éric Lapointe’s 50th birthday, with a host of guests including Isabelle Boulay, Luce Dufault, Mélissa Bédard, Rick Pagamo, Stéphanie St-Jean and Marc Hervieux. The Hydro-Québec stage also featured Dead Obies and Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire.

On Monday, September 2nd, the Hydro-Québec stage welcomed Brothers and Le Groupe Swing (LGS) to close the 32nd edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

On the Scène Familiale Desjardins, our youngest festival-goers were treated to Fredo, Salmigondis, Arthur L’Aventurier, Nicolas Noël and Yannick Bergeron and that’s on top of all the entertainment, kiosks, rides, fireworks, DJ Silencieux parties and our famous colorful hot air balloons. The rather mild weather allowed the hot air balloons to take off four times. The reconfiguration of the site allowed visitors to step into the heart of the take-off area and get a closer look at the many special shapes such as the unicorn, owl, Tom and Jerry, raccoon and deer.

A wind of change began in 2018, with the arrival of escape rooms, the Arbraska akropark structure, skateboarding initiation workshops and demonstrations, the retro tech zone and morning yoga. In addition, the FMG’s new happy hour attracted festival goers to the Family Stage tent.

The festivities kicked off once again on Thursday evening, with the blockbuster show SPACE: The Best of Pink Floyd Show. For more than two hours, fans were immersed in the ambiophonic universe of one of the greatest bands in rock history!

On Friday, August 31st, the now well-known comedy gala merged established artists with funny newcomers! Hosted by the ever-popular Olivier Martineau, the Casino Lac-Leamy stage hosted the sharp humor of Rosalie Vaillancourt, the viral Julien Lacroix, the multi-faceted Anthony Kavanagh and the comical Rachid Badouri.

As announced, the show Gerry, 30 ans de Rendez-vous doux offered a beautiful tribute to Gerry Boulet’s cult album on Saturday, September 1st. Produced in collaboration with Justin Boulet, the show featured a dozen talented musicians, as well as the singular voices of Mario Saint-Amand, Roxane Bruneau, Breen Leboeuf, France Castel and Marjo!

On Sunday, September 2nd, two of Quebec’s leading bands shared the stage: La Chicane and Kaïn. The grand reunion of the original members of La Chicane had the FMG festival goers singing along!

Finally, on September 3rd, two good friends, celebrated on many occasions for their songwriting talent, had the pleasure of bringing this 31st edition to a close: Vincent Vallières and Patrice Michaud.

The somewhat capricious weather allowed us to observe the hot-air balloons on three occasions during one flight and two captive flights. The special shapes of the whale, the young children and the lion amazed the whole family.

The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, established in 1988, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. The Leisure Days RV park was sold out 11 days before it opened. The close to 1,200 RVs started rolling on Tuesday, August 29, their occupants determined to make the most of the activities organized for Canada’s 150th.

The Festival kicked off on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage on Thursday, August 31, with 2Frères and Les Cowboys Fringants. The cool weather didn’t deter our spokesperson Patrice Bélanger from stripping down along with Cowboys bassist Jérôme Dupras for a bodysurfing session.

The Friday evening was a testament to Quebecers’ love for comedy, featuring Stéphane Rousseau, Cathy Gauthier, Philippe Laprise and Alexandre Barrette. Michel Louvain then served up a collection of his top hits. The Envolée 150 show was the FMG’s biggest production to that point, with an audience in the tens of thousands on hand to applaud Claude Dubois, Debbie Lynch-White, Martin Giroux, Martin Rouette, Philippe Touzel, Bryan Audet, Bruno Pelletier, Luce Dufault, Samian, Nicolas Pellerin, Geneviève Leclerc and Patrick Groulx (host).

On Sunday, rocker Éric Lapointe, surprised his audience by inviting La Voix 5 winner Ludovick Bourgeois on stage. The Festival wrapped up on Monday evening to the country sounds of Guylaine Tanguay and her guests.

While many will hold onto their memories of rain-soaked performances, they will never be able to forget the sizzling shows by Martin Deschamps, Laurence Jalbert, Stéphanie St-Jean and the legendary band UZEB.

The Ultimate Strongman Junior World Championship ended with the crowning of England’s Paul Smith, followed by Lithuania’s Martynas Brusokas and Canada’s Wesley Moose. Ireland’s Matthew McCoy beat two world records, one of which was for lifting a 950 pound sandbag!

The less than ideal weather allowed for only three hot air balloon displays, one as a tethered flight, one as a free flight, and the third as a Night Glow. The Simba and Blue Whale special shapes made quite an impression! The daytime activities and shows proved beyond a doubt that the FMG is definitely an unmissable family festival.

The 29th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival was an outstanding success by any measure. The addition of alternative lift-off areas for the morning rides proved to be an excellent call. The hot air balloons lifted off at dawn on Saturday and Sunday from the Gatineau airport, where the winds were perfect for the occasion. In total, there were five free flights and one tethered flight out of a possible total of nine, giving the public the opportunity to admire the gigantic balloons from different parts of Canada, the United States, Mexico and Brazil. Some of this year’s favorites were Pea-Nut the Flying Elephant, the Space Shuttle, and YuYu the penguin, which were also part of the two night glows! The new educational stations also gave the public the chance to learn about the role of the ground crews, a key link in any hot air balloon ride.

For the third year in a row, the Festival extended over 5 days, and there was a definite rise in attendance on Thursday, with the grand opening show by Véronic DiCaire on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage. The unique tribute to David Bowie and Prince on Friday involved some incredible collaborations, including the all-included finale with Purple Rain, with Valérie Carpentier, Élizabeth Blouin-Brathwaite, Annie Villeneuve, Brigitte Boisjoli, Véronic DiCaire, Gregory Charles, Dan Bigras, Martin Deschamps, Maxime Proulx, 10 musicians and a large choir. One of the highlights was Véronic DiCaire’s rendition of Bowie’s Let’s Dance, which brought the crowd to a frenzy. A giant wave of people swept in for the show by Marc Dupré, who was joined by Marie-Mai, Yvan Pedneault and Geneviève Leclerc. Jérôme Couture and spokesperson Patrice Bélanger surprised the crowd by joining them. The evening of comedy and music by P-A Méthot had tens of thousands of festival-goers laughing and singing along with Men Without Hats, Martine St-Clair, Dominic Paquet, Julien Tremblay and Mike Ward! The 29th edition ended on the joyful and uplifting country notes of Renée Martel and her guests Luce Dufault, Laurence Jalbert, Brigitte Boisjoli, Guylaine Tanguay, Annie Blanchard and Valérie Carpentier. The Hydro-Québec Stage and the Family Stage also saw record crowds, among others for the shows by the incomparable Marjo and Légendes in the first part, and Annie Brocoli and Salmigondis in the second. Up-and-coming and local artists also had their chance to shine in different locations around the site.

It was a close battle among the contestants of the Ville de Gatineau Junior Ultimate Strongman Championship. Canada’s Cheick Sanou, originally from Burkina Faso, now living in New Brunswick, weighing 342 pounds and measuring 6’2″, impressed everyone with his agility, even performing a perfect cartwheel! Finally, it was the US’ Nick Hadge who earned the honor of being crowned the strongest junior man in the world!

This 28th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival delivered a generous dose of energy, music, comedy and public participation.

The daring program lineup on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage proved to be up to the challenge. The Thursday night featured Alex Nevsky, Les trois accords, Claude Bégin, Klô Pelgag and Karim Ouellet, followed by the high energy performance by Éric Lapointe and his guests. On Saturday night, audiences were treated to an FMG premiere, a comedy show hosted by Martin Vachon, with Réal Béland, François Massicotte, Peter Macleod and Mariana Mazza, including musical interludes by Brothers’ Sessions. Sunday night was country night, with Gildor Roy, Edith Butler, Maxime Landry, Paul Daraîche and Patrick Groulx. And Monday night wrapped up the terrific five-day run in style with music from the 90s by Frères à ch’val, Noir Silence, Les Respectables, Vilain Pingouin and Zébulon. The Hydro-Québec Stage once again this year delivered some very fine shows by, among others, Sally Folk, Luc de Larochellière and The Box. Several local artists also had a chance to appear.

The hot air balloons, the other highlights of the event, were able to manage four Desjardins lift-offs out of a possible nine, as well as a tethered flight on the Sunday. On Friday night, the sky came to life with the glow of 13 special shaped balloons.

In its first year, the new team formula for the ministère du Tourisme / Ville de Gatineau International Strength Athletes event was a hit. Despite the clear superiority of the pair from the United States, the battle for second place was hotly contested. It finally went to the strength athletes from Estonia, leaving those from Great Britain in third place, and the Canadians in fourth.

More than 1,030 RVs settled in the Domaine des caravaniers. Visitors streamed in from coast to coast, including from Texas, New Brunswick and British Columbia, and several from different parts of Quebec, Ontario and the rest of Canada.

For its 27th edition, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, presented by Loto-Québec in collaboration with Desjardins, decided not to argue with success, and added a fifth day of festivities to its program lineup. International star Jason Derulo fired up the audience with Thursday night’s opening show. On Friday, history was made on the Loto-Québec Stage with the joint appearance of four icons: Paul Piché, Zachary Richard, Michel Rivard and Patrick Norman. On Saturday, Phillip Phillips let everyone know that he felt right at home, and treated the audience to a most generous performance. The extremely popular Marc Dupré, and his guests from La Voix, had the Outaouais audience eating out of their hands. The Festival wrapped up with its all new happy hour formula in the embrace of a powerful performance by Kaïn!

Strong winds kept the number of Desjardins flights down to three, with only tethered flights for the remainder. However, festival-goers still got a taste of the world of hot air ballooning thanks to the generosity of the pilots who were on hand during the activities organized at the Lift-Off Area for the ever popular Meet the Pilots event presented by Desjardins and the special shapes Nightglow on the Friday night.

The new Hydro-Québec Stage attracted huge crowds, with David Thibault, Nanette Workman, Michel Pagliaro, Martine St-Clair, Johanne Blouin, Martin Deschamps and Breen LeBoeuf. The Family Stage was also a huge hit!

Festival-goers gathered around the strength athletes’ arena were treated to a wicked face-off. The nine events culminated with American Brian Shaw hoisting the $5,000 purse for his five-point lead over outgoing Champion Jean-François Caron.

Once again, local artists proved that the Outaouais is a force to be reckoned with on Quebec’s cultural scene: Ricky Paquette, Renée Wilkin, Jessica Levasseur Teck, Myriame Proulx, Lisa Hammill, Alain Barbeau, Geneviève Roberge-Bouchard and of course Patrice Bélanger, the ever popular FMG spokesperson!

A top notch program lineup has nothing to fear from one of Mother Nature’s nasty tricks, as was evident at the 26th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival presented by Loto-Québec in collaboration with Desjardins.

As always, the highlights were the pilots and their hot air balloons. All three lift-offs of the Desjardins green flag were greeted by loud cheers from the excited spectators.

Festival-goers turned out in droves to hear Canadian star Mia Martina and Jamaican reggae icon Sean Paul. On Saturday night, three artists, from three generations, with three distinctive voices, appeared on the Loto-Québec Stage: Garou, Valérie Carpentier and Daniel Lavoie. And to top it all off, none other than Éric Lapointe made an appearance to perform two songs with Garou. On Sunday night, Bernard Adamus and Mes Aïeux had their huge audience at fever pitch. And on Monday, snubbing their noses at the gloomy weather forecast, the crowds once again descended on the site with one thought in mind: PARTY TIME!  By the end of the day, even the rain couldn’t throw a damper on the sizzling shows put on by Damien Robitaille and Loco Locass.

As for the Tourisme Québec/Ville de Gatineau Strength Athletes Championship, where everyone was talking about the success of the Louis Cyr film, the last word went to Jean-François Caron with his 1.5 point lead over Christian Savoie.

Mother Nature waited two years before she finally got on board with the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival organizers. And for this 25th anniversary, was she ever ready! Nobody could have asked for more.

Three of the seven initially planned lift-offs kept the hopeful admirers happy, as did the three magnificent tethered rides. The majestic creatures certainly got their chance to vaunt their wares to the awestruck onlookers!

The crowds came from far and wide, day and night, to take in the 300 or so shows and performances at the event. It was clear that the Saturday turnout broke a ten-year record, thanks in part to the terrific show put on by Simple Plan. KC and the Sunshine Band, for their part, managed to warm up the shivering crowds, revving up their spirits on the one cold night of the Festival. As for Isabelle Boulay, the charming singer had the crowd in the palm of her hand with her extensive repertoire of country folk hits.

The Tourisme Québec / Ville de Gatineau North American Strength Athletes Championship crowned a new champion, Quebec’s Jean-François Caron.

We had the privilege of attending the historic reconstitution of the first hot air balloon flight, for the first time ever in America, put on by Roland de Montgolfier and his team, who came all the way from France to treat our festival-goers.

The theme for the 25th edition was Twenty-five years, now that’s something to celebrate, and to sing and dance about. And that’s exactly how this anniversary ended, with the crowd belting out its joy at the top of its lungs, almost drowning out Éric Lapointe, who left his audience ecstatic.

While the hot air balloons may have shown their faces less often than festival organizers would have liked, the Festival made up for it with the quality of its shows.

Although the uncertain weather forecasts affected attendance at the day’s activities, the different program elements once again came through. Two out of eight lift-offs took place, as well as one tethered flight.

The shows on the Loto-Québec Stage attracted tens of thousands of festival-goers, starting on the Friday with David Usher and the mythical Roger Hodgson. The Saturday evening show drew a most impressive crowd with Marc Dupré and his special guests, Véronic DiCaire and Annie Villeneuve. The fans also turned out for Roch Voisine on the Sunday, and for the double program on the Monday with Les Trois Accords and Les Respectables.

The performances on the four stages, namely by the BB, Patsy Gallant, Martin Giroux and Jenny Rock, were very well received. The amusement rides, family activities, RONA L’entrepôt Circus, Bistros SAQ and the Michel Quesnel, pharmacien fireworks were also part of the weekend’s highlights.

In terms of the finals of the Tourisme Québec / Ville de Gatineau Strength Athletes Championship, Quebec’s Christian Savoie beat his closest rival by more than 10 points, winning the coveted title.

The 23rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival will go down in history for the tenacity and loyalty of both volunteers and visitors. The site remained crowded every day, and people had a fine time despite the poor weather.

Festival-goers enjoyed the shows by Bobby Bazini, Our Lady Peace and Hedley on the Friday night. On Saturday, the finest female voices in Quebec got together with Laurence Jalbert, Johanne Blouin, France D’Amour and Luce Dufault. For the Sunday, Sylvain Cossette invited his two good friends, Bruno Pelletier and Dan Bigras. Flamenco guitar virtuoso Jesse Cook performed for the first part. The Cowboys Fringants then took over and wrapped up with their many hits during a high energy closing show.

The Festival had a record number of RVs, making it over the 1,500 mark. In fact, by the Thursday afternoon, the Domaine des caravaniers Centre VR Bélanger was already full.

Three of the seven planned lift-offs finally took place. The tail end of Hurricane Earl played a key role in most of the cancellations, what with the strong winds and at times torrential downpours at the lift-off times.

The Strength Athletes Championship drew a crowd of 15,000 fans. Despite the impressive rally by Gatineau’s Jessen Paulin on the second day of the competition, Christian Savoie held onto his title as the North American Strength Athletes Champion.

175,000 visitors showed up for this most particular edition of the Festival!

This edition was marked by an all-time attendance record for the Festival, which was extremely busy throughout all four days of this cultural event. An impressive 277,000 visitors showed up in 2009. The pilots took full advantage of their presence in Gatineau. There were five flights, one having been canceled because of strong winds that would have swept the hot air balloons off in the wrong direction.

The shows presented on the Loto-Québec Stage all attracted impressive crowds. On Saturday, there was a tidal wave of spectators for the King of Country, Kenny Rogers. Mes Aïeux, Marie-Mai, Ariane Moffatt and Éric Lapointe also attracted tens of thousands of spectators.

In a tight race, Quebec giant Christian Savoie from Val-Joli, became the new North American Strength Athletes champion.

The six out of seven lift-offs that Flight Director André Boucher and his team were delighted to enjoy were the best outcome since 2002, when all seven made it.

Mother Nature came through for the 21st edition, from August 29 to September 1, 2008, despite a slight hiccup on the Friday because of the mist that settled in until the end of the performance by the Finger Eleven band. However, the 25,000 fans who turned out were more than delighted by the privilege of attending their favorite band’s only show in Quebec.

There were already an impressive number of folding chairs installed by festival-goers by the time the site opened on Saturday and Sunday morning, as preparations were underway for the shows by Marie-Élaine Thibert, Xavier Caféïne, Pascale Picard and Dennis DeYoung, who attracted 60,000 and 70,000 people on each of those two days, respectively .

The sun soared and shone brightly from August 31 to September 3, 2007 throughout the 20th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

On the Molson Dry Main Stage, the Sunday evening show drew an impressive 65,000 spectators to the Dan Bigras et ses blondes and Bruno Pelletier concerts. For the Friday opening, Compagnie Créole had 40,000 people dancing and singing, while Alfa Rococo and Eva drew an audience of some 55,000. Kaïn, followed by Champion et ses G-Strings had the honor of closing this 20th edition, before approximately 30,000 spectators.

The organizers estimate that in total, counting the young families who came for the day and left before the shows, 230,000 festival-goers visited the site over the four days of the event, a record number according to the old-timers.

Despite the brightly shining sun, the hot air balloons were unable to lift off four times because of winds stronger than the prescribed limits.

Nonetheless, visitors who were at the site on the Saturday morning and evening and on the Sunday morning had the opportunity to see dozens of hot air balloons lift off, including the giant Jesus, the Space Shuttle, and the Cake. The SkyHawks, the Canadian Forces Parachute Team, dazzled the crowds on the Sunday afternoon, spinning through the sky in formations or with colorful flares.

Gatineau’s Jessen Paulin won the North American Champion title after the closest battle ever at the Strength Athletes site. By the time the different events were completed, Paulin and America’s Brian Shaw were both at 83 points, ahead of the rest. Gatineau’s star finally edged ahead to grab the winner’s crown.

In 2006, Chantal Lacroix joined the team as the Festival’s official spokesperson. The program, which included the highly popular Simple Plan and Mobile as the opening acts and Cowboys Fringants as the closing act attracted record crowds for a Friday (60,000) and Monday (45,000), traditionally the least attended days of the weekend. Garou drew 50,000 people, as 15,000 undaunted festival-goers braved the rain and mud to attend the girls’ Sunday night show. Once again, the Festival cleared its stage for up and coming artists by offering the first parts of the shows to young local talents who got the experience of a lifetime on the Molson Dry Main Stage.

Turning to the hot air balloons, two out of seven flights dotted the skies over Gatineau and Ottawa during the 19th edition, a rather disappointing turnout given that the Festival tends to average four. There was a record number of reservations for hot air balloon rides this year, a clear demonstration of the public’s growing interest in this activity. The 12 special forms marked a five-year record. Star pilot Joe Kittinger, who holds the world record for the highest parachute jump from a hot air balloon, gave a highly appreciated speech for the Festival’s opening. Japan was the host country this year, with its Doraemon balloon. In the take-off area, the Dream Team manned by American Ted Ohara, won the 3rd edition of the unique North American Crew Competition. At the 8th Canadian Strength Athletes Championship presented by the Casino du Lac-Leamy, Gatineau resident Jessen Paulin hauled away the national title, beating his closest rival Dominic Filiou by 15 points.

Over the years, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival has also become the second largest gathering of RVers in Quebec, after St-Tite. This year, the Festival welcomed a record of upwards of 1,200 RVs at the site, which was full by 5 p.m. on the Friday night.

The 2005 edition was the inauguration of the Festival’s new hot air balloon. This one, along with more than 70 other hot air balloons, including Van Gogh from Holland on his first trip to North America, displayed its splendor during the four flights. Don Cameron, the owner of the world’s largest hot air balloon factory, flew from Canada to England and back to give a fascinating lecture on hot air ballooning.

The formula of unique shows presented on the Molson Dry Grand Stage greatly contributed to attracting the record crowds that came out during the four days of the 18th edition of the Festival. Charmed from the outset by the winners of the Gatineau Emerging Talent Contest, Alain Barbeau, Guillaume Guilbaut and Valéry Lemay Laporte, festival-goers were treated to Boom Desjardins accompanied by Top Passion, a vocal group from the Outaouais. Despite the Saturday afternoon showers, festival-goers also attended in large numbers the lively show by Éric Lapointe, accompanied for the occasion by his best friends, Hugo Lapointe, Martin Deschamps and Florent Vollant. Together, they performed for over two hours, before giving way to the traditional PJC Michel Quesnel fireworks from Gatineau, orchestrated by Royal Pyrotechnie. The gold medal, in terms of attendance, goes to the evening of Sunday, September 4. The seven artists present, Michel Pagliaro, Marie-Chantal Toupin, Luck Mervil, Vincent Vallières, Émily Bégin, Marie-Mai and Nicola Ciccone, entertained more than 75,000 spectators, a record since the visit of Céline Dion in 1992. To close the Festival in style, thousands of people danced to the folk tunes of Mes Aïeux and the disco sounds of the Boogie Wonder Band.

The day’s activities included highlights such as Michèle Richard’s show on the backstage, the Break Dance Championship and the 23 sold-out shows under the Rona Magic Dome at the warehouse by Alain Choquette. The event’s spokesperson was accompanied by Richard Sanders and Lilo Traina. The third edition of the Desjardins Vent en fête brought smiles to many children’s faces; 1,000 kites were distributed for a fun introduction to this high-flying sport. The 7th Canadian Championship for Strength Athletes, presented by the Casino du Lac-Leamy, allowed another local hero, Jessen Paulin, to succeed his teacher, Hugo Girard, who was absent from the competition due to injury. Importantly, 3.58 tons of garbage were recycled thanks to the presence of the Consortium ÉCHO-Logique and more than 150 recycling bins on site.

Despite a summer marked by torrential rains, the 2004 edition of the Festival was enhanced by four sunny days. This allowed festival-goers to attend four flights during which 80 hot air balloons decorated the Outaouais sky with their many colors and shapes. Several of these strange birds were making their first visit to Gatineau. These included Nudie, who was the first to arrive at the Festival, the Angel and the Devil, as well as two little Bees from Australia, Brazil and the United States respectively.

The event’s new activities, such as the crew competition and the open house day, will have contributed to increase the popular knowledge of this high altitude sport.

The main stage hosted four unique shows in Quebec. During the four nights of the Festival, the following performances took place on Friday, Daniel Boucher preceded by the winners of the Gatineau Cultural Emerging Talent Contest, Alexandre Simpson Tremblay, Andréane Lafrenière-Renaud and Pier-Luc Labelle Charlebois; On Saturday, Nanette Workman, Marie-Chantal Toupin, Laurence Jalbert, Mélanie Renaud and Andrée Watters, not to mention the special participation of two wonderful local talents, Joëlle Miller and Eva; on Sunday, Bruno Pelletier and his guest Gino Vannelli; finally, on Monday, La Bottine Souriante, with the exceptional presence of Martin Giroux. The Festival also presented the 6th Canadian Strength Athletes Championship. More than 5,000 spectators crowded the stands each day to watch Hugo Girard win his 6th title as Canada’s strongest man. Thousands of people also attended the 27 micromagic shows put on by Alain Choquette, the Festival’s spokesperson for a third consecutive year, under the Rona Magic Dome Warehouse.

An auction of hot air balloon rides with popular artists, including Francine Ruel, Bruno Pelletier, Marie-Hélène Thibault, François-Étienne Paré, Martin Dion and Christopher Hall, raised $2,000 for the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada. As a preview to Sunday’s show, the pilots lit up their balloon to the rhythm of various country, rock and classical songs. Rudolf Höfer, the pilot of the Fox, imported this concept from Europe and presented it to an ecstatic audience. Thus, with its three hundred shows and animations, the 17th edition will have sown joy and satisfaction among a global attendance estimated at 200,000 visits, including more than 2,000 RV’S.

There were major new features for the 16th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. One addition was the Rona L’entrepôt Magic Dome, where spokesperson Alain Choquette gave 18 astounding presentations of micro-magic before more than 12,000 people, reinforcing the theme “There’s magic in the air.”

Another important change was that all children’s activities were grouped in one sector called “The Small Enchanted World.” The Festival also provided high visibility to young talents, giving three artists from the region — Eva, Geoffrey Larivière and Joëlle Miller — the opportunity to perform in the introductory part of Roch Voisine’s show. Several thousand Festival goers attended the performances by Roch Voisine, Daniel Bélanger, Bob Walsh, Lulu Hughes, Yelo Molo and the Respectables, who enchanted their large audiences. Another attraction was the Mike the Monster balloon, modeled on the famous character from the Walt Disney film Monsters Inc.;making its first North American tour, it was one of more than 70 hot air balloons that filled the sky with color over the city of Gatineau. Spectators were dazzled by the Mega Fireworks display produced by Royal Pyrotechnie, first prize winner at the 2003 Mondial SAQ. Every seat was taken for the three-day strongmen’s competition, in which a dozen top athletes took part. In all, a hundred performers offered more than 280 shows and presentations to thousands of delighted visitors.

Finally, the 850 RV enthusiasts who came from all over Canada and the United States returned home charmed and thrilled by their visit to the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

The Festival’s 15th anniversary was a year of renewal and magic. A new team takes over, and a new spokesperson appears: Alain Choquette, a renowned magician. With his presence comes a new theme: “There’s magic in the air.” Some forty magicians, among the best in Québec, join the festivities as part of a rejuvenated program under the celebrated master Alain Choquette.

Balloons of all shapes and colors are launched at all seven scheduled flights. Featured artists Alain Choquette, Gabrielle Destroismaisons, Mario Pelchat and his guest Boom Desjardins, Richard Séguin and comic Stéphane Rousseau fill the Molson Dry main stage with song, magic and laughter. A sold-out tribute to Pierre Barouh, featuring Bïa, Dorothée Berryman, Renée Claude, Pierre Lapointe and Micheline Scott, is held at the Canadian Museum of Civilizations. Under the sun for its entire duration, the 15th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival delivered skied filled with hot air balloons and more than 300 shows and activities featuring over 100 artists to thousands of happy visitors.

The 2001 edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, which took place from August 31 to September 3, was an outstanding success. For the second year in a row, Francine Ruel, the Festival’s official spokesperson, rose to the occasion and represented the event very well. Thanks to an exceptional program, nearly 200,000 visitors attended the 14th edition of the Festival. The flight of new balloon shapes such as the dragon Oggy, the potato chip character Humpty Dumpty, the winged cow, the squirrel and the Brazilian clown were a delight to the eye.

These shapes decorated the Outaouais sky and even gave it a boost. Forty or so rides and a mega-fireworks display turned the peaceful Parc de la Baie into a fun and enchanting place in a few days. We must not forget the remarkable performances of Luck Mervil, Sylvain Cossette, Bruno Pelletier and Okoumé, who rocked the Molson Dry stage. The variety of shows and animations (Chinese acrobats, Fernand Gignac, Annie Brocoli, Strongman Contest) satisfied a large audience. A colorful Festival that concluded the summer well!

If ever there was any doubt about the public’s loyalty, the 13th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, held from September 1 to 4, 2000, put the question to rest. Despite strong winds and rain that forced the cancellation of all balloon launches, almost 200,000 visitors were in attendance.

Main stage performers Zachary Richard, Marjo, Éric Lapointe and the rock group La Chicane attracted very large audiences every evening. The strongman competition, the Chinese acrobats, Richard Abel and Pierre Lalonde were the main daytime attractions. The Year 2000 Festival also gave its visitors a glimpse of the Chinese lantern festival that the Organizing Committee is planning for 2002 at La Baie Park. A brightly lit 30-meter-long banner was displayed on the Festival grounds to promote the event.

From September 3 to 6, 1999, the last Festival of the century attracted around 200,000 visitors. The 12th edition featured 150 hot air balloons including many special shapes—the Energizer bunny, the Michelin man, the Statue of Liberty, a sun-shaped balloon, a daisy, a snowman and a pumpkin. Pilots also took part in two competitions: the Canada-U.S. race and the Bell ActiMedia race. The magnificent “Night Glow” evening was hosted by Francine Ruel, new Festival spokesperson.

Large crowds attended all four major outdoor concerts by Dubmatique, Bruno Pelletier, Corey Hart and Jean Leloup. The 12th edition schedule also featured “new circus” acrobatics and, for the first time but not the last, a strongman competition.

The Festival celebrated its 11th anniversary by making ballooning history. For the first time ever in North America, Gatineau played host to the sixth edition of the World Hot Air Airship Championship.

Sixteen airship pilots from Europe, the United States and China performed speed and precision tasks as they competed for the world title. An Antonov 124, the world’s largest cargo plane, was chartered to carry the hot air airships to North America. The Festival was extended to six days to accommodate both the airships and more than one hundred hot air balloons of all shapes and colors.

In addition to balloon events, the Festival program included 300 concerts, shows and other entertainment, including the fearless Snowbirds. The evening main stage concerts featured Claude Dubois, Dubmatique, Luce Dufault, Jonny Lang, Kevin Parent and Sylvain Cossette. A new festival CD with seven original tracks by Michel DeMars was also released in 1998.

In 1997, the Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary in a big way: first by publishing Les vaisseaux du ciel, a glossy hardcover book on hot air ballooning by Italian journalist Marco Majrani. Cartoonist Paul Roux and author Michel Luppens also teamed up to produce a comic book entitled Et vive la montgolfière! More than 150 hot air balloons, including 20 special shapes such as the Scottish piper, a fox head and the Orient-Express locomotive, made five successful flights. Gipsy Kings, Richard Séguin, Anthony Kavanagh, Dan Bigras and Soul Attorneys were the main stage evening attractions. For this tenth year celebration, 225,000 visitors made the trip to La Baie Park.

In 1996, attendance reached a record peak of 225,000. The main stage concerts featured Robert Charlebois, André-Philippe Gagnon, Marie Carmen and Kevin Parent, while groups like Quarimba, Al-Arz, Salamanca and Tchaka gave the weekend an exotic touch. Once again, Canadians won the Canada-U.S. race. The Saturday fireworks and Sunday Night Glow also broke attendance records. And for the first time a woman, Mady Smets, from Belgium, wore the mantle of Honorary President.

New heights were reached in 1995. Over 200,000 visitors attended six successful launches. Special-shape balloons, such as Noah’s Ark and Disney’s Magic Kingdom castle, were crowd favorites. Over 60 balloons participated in a spectacular “Night Glow”. With over 70,000 people on hand, the Marjo concert broke all attendance records, followed by the Super Show which featured Sonia Benezra, Mitsou, Mario Pelchat, Jim Corcoran, Sylvain Cossette and Michaël Rancourt. Main stage stars Éric Lapointe and Gildor Roy also drew considerable crowds. Per Linstrand was Honorary President.

In 1994, the 7th Festival surpassed all previous attendance records. 150 hot air balloons from eight countries, including 20 special shapes, attracted close to 200,000 visitors to the Festival site.

Main stage concerts by Roch Voisine, France D’Amour, Claude Dubois, Gilles Vigneault and Édith Butler, a “Night Glow” performance featuring 60 hot air balloons and a spectacular fireworks display, drew large crowds. Voisine proved his megastar status by attracting tens of thousands of fans!

André Bilodeau, one of the first pilots to promote ballooning in Québec, served as the 7th Festival’s Honorary President.

In 1993, the Festival attracts 185,000 visitors. On the main stage: Robert Charlebois, Ginette Reno, Alannah Myles and Julie Masse. The sky fills with 150 hot air balloons, including 15 special shapes—Mickey Mouse, a Smurf, a parakeet, a dragon, etc. The Festival also welcomes two honorary presidents, Wim Verstraeten and Bertrand Piccard, winners of the first Chrysler transatlantic balloon race.

In 1992, 125 balloonists came to the 5th edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival as the event marked the closing of Canada’s 125th birthday celebrations in the National Capital Region. Good weather conditions made for a perfect score of seven launches, much to the delight of over 170,000 spectators.

Main stage concerts featured Richard Séguin, Luc De Larochellière, Céline Dion and Les B.B. The Festival also staged the first Canada-USA Hot Air Balloon Race, the Gatineau and Adirondack Festivals (New York State) joining in a friendly competition.

The Festival’s honorary president was Rocky Aoki, the famous Japanese-American businessman who founded the BENIHANA Restaurant empire and crossed the Pacific Ocean aboard his “Double Eagle V” hot air balloon in just three and a half days!

1991 saw 150,000 people and 90 balloonists from Europe, the United States and Canada attending the festival. Moreover, Gatineau was hosting the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships: Dan Balisky, a pilot from Manitoba was declared champion. The president of the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Association, Alex Nagorski, was the 4th Festival’s honorary president.

Besides, four main shows by Daniel Lavoie, André-Philippe Gagnon, Marjo and Vilain Pingouin attracted crowds that filled La Baie Park every evening.

In 1990, 110,000 people attended the 3rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, which was described by the Quebec Ministry of Tourism as the tourism event par excellence in the Outaouais area. Eighty-five balloon pilots from France, Switzerland, Spain, England, the United States and Canada took part in the festival, along with Honorary President Don Cameron of Great Britain, who is the largest manufacturer of balloons in the world. On the program were concerts by Paul Piché and Mitsou. There were six balloons of original shapes.

In 1989, the sunshine, the pilots and not least, the public, made the Festival a great success. With four event-filled days, the festival attracted 90,000 visitors to La Baie Park and no less than 65 balloons from France, Switzerland, the United States and Canada.

Céline Dion and Pierre Flynn were the main drawing cards on the program.

The honorary president that year was Xavier de Montgolfier, a pilot from Annonay and a descendant of the inventors of the “lighter than air machine”.

Also in 1989, representatives from Gatineau went on a promotional tour to Europe, in Chalon-sur-Saône and Metz, where 600 hot air balloons were gathered to celebrate the French Bicentenary.

The purpose of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, which emerged from the 1988 “Gatineau, on y croît” promotion campaign, is to provide the City of Gatineau with a major tourist and family event.

The Festival has rapidly become the most important hot air balloon gathering in Canada, and the fifth largest in the world. It is also the most popular summer festival in the Outaouais region. It has attracted European and North American pilots to fly their regular and specially-shaped balloons over the National Capital Region.

In 1988, the first festival attracted 47 balloons, including one from France, and the Honorary President for the festivities was His Excellency Philippe Husson, the French Ambassador to Canada. Although the balloons were all ready to go, the weather did not cooperate. Nevertheless, in a single day of operation, the festival drew a crowd of 34,000 to see the first tethered flights and a concert by the group Nuance.

Honorary presidents

Xavier de Montgolfier, a direct descendant of the Montgolfier brothers, inventors of the hot air balloon, was chosen as Honorary President of the 2nd edition of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in 1989 while Philippe Husson, Ambassador of France to Canada, was the 1988 Honorary President.

His ancestors Joseph and Étienne de Montgolfier launched their first “lighter-than-air” balloon in 1783 in the town of Annonay, south of Lyon, in France. Two hundred years later, Xavier de Montgolfier joined with other family members to found the Club de montgolfières de la ville d’Annonay (the Annonay hot air balloon club).

“To appropriately celebrate the bicentennial of this great invention, explains Xavier de Montgolfier, we just had to find a hot air balloon. With sponsor support, we managed to obtain one and founded the club to enable all balloon enthusiasts to fly with us.”

Today, with six balloons and 21 members, the Annonay hot air balloon club operates in a very special manner. Its pilots don’t own the balloons they fly, since every piece of equipment belongs to the club and remains available to all members.

Don Cameron, owner of the most important balloon manufacturing plant in the world, was appointed Honorary President of the 3rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival in 1990.

Aeronautical engineer by trade and an airplane pilot from the age of 17, Don Cameron took an interest in ballooning in 1967. To Cameron and a group of friends we owe the first hot air airship in England, the “Bristol Belle”. His newfound passion turned into an occupation in 1968 when Don Cameron assumed ownership of the largest balloon manufacturing firm in the world.

Today, his Bristol (U.K.), Harrogate (U.K.), Moscow (Russia) and Michigan (U.S.A.) plants turn out an average of one balloon per day. Cameron hot air balloons, hot air airships and helium balloons can now be found in over 50 countries.

Don Cameron regularly flies his balloons in situations that put them to the test. When he attended the Gatineau festival, he experimented with a one-seat hot air balloon where the pilot sits on a chair fitted with a burner on its back and an envelope. The balloon is used for lifting off in confined areas. In 1972, Don Cameron crossed the Sahara desert in a hot air balloon and was the first balloonist to fly over the Swiss Alps, a feat for which he was rewarded with a bronze medal by the British Royal Aero Club

Alex Nagorski, Chairman of the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Association, has been named Honorary President of the 4th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held from August 30 to September 2, 1991.

Mr. Nagorski was Chairman of the Canadian Association for two years. The Association draws together over 200 balloonists from across the country. The attendance of Mr. Nagorski added a special luster to the Gatineau festival, which hosted the Canadian Ballooning Championships that year.

The Canadian Association chairman has been piloting balloons for over 15 years. He is also a member of the Edmonton Balloon Corporation.

Rocky H. Aoki, owner of BENIHANA, a world-wide chain of Japanese restaurants, was the Honorary President of the 5th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held in 1992.

But Rocky H. Aoki is not satisfied with being a great manager. He also ranks among the great balloonists.

He was the first to succeed a Pacific Ocean crossing aboard the “Double Eagle V”, establishing a world record. He entered the first aerostat competition held in the Community of Independant States (former USSR) and won against five American teams. He now adds the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival to his list of world-class events.

Hot air balloons have taken him to the four corners of the earth and have been widely used in his company’s advertising. Festival goers had a chance to see two of them: one representing the BENIHANA chain, the other featuring the BENIHANA chef.

The great winners of the first transatlantic balloon race were the guests of the city of Gatineau during the 1993 Festival. Bertrand Piccard and Wim Verstraeten were the honorary presidents of the sixth Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

The 200,000 visitors who attended this colourful event were able to see these two outstanding pilots aboard their most impressive balloon… in the shape of a smurf.

Swiss ultralight and hang glider pilot Bertrand Piccard came to the balloon quite naturally. As for the professional pilot, Wim Verstraeten, he was greatly noticed. He was the first to fly over Kilimanjaro and the first Belgian pilot in the history of aviation to cross the English Channel.

On March 21, 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones were the first to fly non-stop around the world in a balloon.

André Bilodeau, a pilot who pioneered hot air ballooning in the province of Québec, has been named honorary president of the 7th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

In 1994, the honor was bestowed on André Bilodeau, a Sherbrooke, Québec, resident and a Gatineau regular from the Festival’s very beginnings. He piloted the Matériaux Inovaco pink elephant balloon.

In 1980, Bilodeau, Michel Auzat (Télé-Direct balloon pilot) and a group of balloonists organized the Association de montgolfières du Québec to promote ballooning in Québec and increase safety measures for pilots. Bilodeau, who has twice been elected as the Association’s President, is an electrical contractor but also represents the “Balloon Works” and “Galaxie” hot air balloon companies.

Celebrated as the holder of world records for height, distance and duration, Per Lindstrand has literally revolutionized ballooning. In a public tribute to his hard work and ingenuity, the 8th Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival held in 1995 has chosen Mr. Lindstrand as its Honorary President.

Lindstrand perfected his hot air balloons through numerous experimental flights. In the late seventies, he became interested in lighter than air crafts. Working as an engineer at Thunder and Colt, he propelled the balloon manufacturing company to the top ranks, helping it become one of the European leaders in product quality.

Today, Lindstrand owns his own balloon factory in Oswestry, England, and specializes in hot air balloons, gas balloons and airships.

In 1996, Mady Smets from Brussels accepted the invitation to become Honorary President of the 9th Festival. She has achieved recognition as one of the foremost ballooning promoters in Europe. Founder and President of the Montgolfiades universitaires internationales de Bruxelles, Mrs. Smets has been instrumental in organizing this most popular European ballooning event, and has succeeded in getting active student participation from Belgium and other countries. Mady Smets is also well known in financial and pharmaceutical circles in Brussels. She has also been involved with the restoration of the village of Peyresq ruins (in the French region of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) by students from several countries, for the purpose of creating an international center for the humanities, arts, culture and science. Mrs. Smets brought with her to the Festival an exact replica of the original Montgolfier brothers hot air balloon.

To emphasize the long-standing friendship between the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Adirondack Balloon Festival (Glens Falls, New York), the Organizing Committee chose Walter and Joan Grishkot as 1997 Honorary Presidents. Both have managed the Adirondack festival for 25 years. Since 1992, the two festivals have joined forces to initiate and promote an annual Canada-U.S. balloon race in which pilots from both countries enter in a friendly hare and hound competition. Gatineau hosts the first leg of the race, the second event being held at Glens Falls in mid-September. A third country, Japan, is joining the race in 1997. The first of three Canada-U.S.-Japan races is being held in November at the Saga Balloon Festival in Japan. Gatineau followed in 1998, with Glens Falls completing the cycle in 1999.

The Jean Boileau award

This annual award aims to underscore the work and involvement of a hot air balloon pilot, volunteer or member of the organizing committee. Its creation was announced in 2007 at the moving tribute to Mr. Boileau during the Festival’s 20th anniversary.

As the Hot Air Balloon Festival’s General Director from its inception to 2001, Jean Boileau helped rally numerous volunteers, pilots and different artists, making this event a must-see family and tourist activity in the Outaouais.

A selection committee comprising current and past organizers, including Jean Boileau, has the task of designating the recipient.

Since its creation in 2007, the Jean Boileau Award has highlighted the commitment of the people behind the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, whether pilots, artists or volunteers. This year, Jean Boileau, founder of the FMG, chose to present the award to two photographers who have worked with the Festival for many years.

With their photos, Denis Tremblay and Sylvain Marier have shared with festival-goers and the general public a unique perspective on the magnificent spectacle of hot-air balloons and the many activities and events that take place in Parc de la Baie every year.

“With his panoramic cameras, his masterful shots and his network of contacts, Denis Tremblay was able to expand the reputation of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival by distributing his images in Europe and the United States, in various exhibitions and on various computer and web tools, including those of Microsoft. He has also enabled the FMG to establish numerous alliances with balloonists and balloon festivals around the world,” explains Jean Boileau.

“From an apprentice photographer under the supervision of René Binet, Sylvain Marier has captured every facet of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival for nearly thirty years, and above all has earned the recognition and appreciation of balloonists, artists and volunteers. His images are now part of the unique history of the FMG,” adds Jean Boileau.

The Jean Boileau Award, which annually recognizes the involvement of those who have made an outstanding contribution to the development of the FMG, will be presented this year to two former flight directors, André Boucher and Garry Lockyer. Both of whom have left their mark not only on the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, but also on the world of hot air ballooning. The flight directors play a crucial role in the organisation of a balloon festival, overseeing the flights and analysing the available data to give the green light for pilots to launch.

Garry Lockyer was awarded this year’s CIA Montgolfier Diploma 2022 by the Ballooning Commission of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (CIA) for his contribution to the sport of ballooning. This is not surprising, as he is known to have left his mark on all continents, from Asia to Europe and Australia to America. He first became a pilot in 1978 and has accumulated more than 1,700 flying hours. Flight director for the first fourteen editions of the FMG, he has participated in countless competitions, be it as a competitor, jury, president or organiser.

“As flight director and with his involvement in the world of aerostation, Garry Lockyer was instrumental in establishing the reputation of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, attracting many foreign pilots and holding competitive flights in the Outaouais skies, including the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championship and the Intercontinental Race between the Saga Festival in Japan, the Glenn Falls Festival in New York and the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. He was also involved in bringing the World Hot Air Balloon Championship to Gatineau in 1998,” explains Jean Boileau, founder of the FMG and Director of Communications for the City of Gatineau.

André Boucher is one of the most experienced pilots in Quebec. He was the sixth pilot from la Belle Province and completed his first flight in 1979. It was love at first flight! Founder of the Festivent, he was flight director in Gatineau from 2001 to 2019 and has flown all over Canada and the United States. For several years, he perfected the concept of the nightly illuminations presented in Gatineau, during which the hot-air balloons glow to the rhythm of the music. Under his guidance, the FMG became the first festival to use Google Earth to visualize the flights during the pilot briefing.

“Courtesy, kindness, attentiveness and above all, a passion for ballooning, this is how we can sum up André Boucher’s character traits. This makes him the prince of pilots. Thanks to these qualities, he knows how to rally the pilots around his decisions, come rain, shine, or fierce winds, in the Parc de la Baie”, adds Jean Boileau.

The FMG family was honored! Eight long standing volunteers will receive the Jean Boileau Award.

For the past 13 years, the Jean Boileau Award has recognized the commitment of the event’s artisans, whether they be pilots, artists, spokespersons or volunteers. In this special year, the founder of the FMG, Jean Boileau, and the president, Stéphane Riel, have chosen to underline the resilience of its organizing committee and its volunteers by highlighting the involvement of eight of the committee’s members, who are celebrating over 30 years of volunteer work within the organization.

“The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival is first and foremost a family event, but it is also a large family of volunteers, some of whom have been involved for ten, twenty and even thirty years. It is this driving force that allows the event, the city of Gatineau and the Outaouais region to shine, to be recognized, and above all to offer a colorful weekend for young and old alike! Thank you to the eight volunteers honored this year and to their teams for their work behind the scenes in Parc de la Baie,” said Jean Boileau, founder of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival and Director of Communications for the City of Gatineau.

“Family is the foundation of our event. With all the upheavals the organization has experienced in the last two years due to the pandemic, it is important to recognize that it is thanks to this family spirit that we are able to offer this year’s event with an exceptional line-up, all in a safe environment. Thank you and congratulations to all of them,” added Stéphane Riel, President of the FMG.

Here is the list of the 2021 Jean Boileau Award recipients:

– Robert Asselin – Provisioning;

– Anne-Marie Mathieu – Pilots’ Pavilion;

– Lise Paquin McArdle – 1001 Trouvailles;

– Paul Cloutier – Security;

– Julie Mathieu – Hot Air Balloon Tours;

– Louise Dicaire – Provisioning;

– Lorraine O’Farrell – Flight Officer;

– Isabelle Laberge – Lost Children and Infant Care.

Patrice Bélanger, 12 years as our spokesperson!

Actor, host and spokesperson for the FMG – Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, Patrice Bélanger has been wholly involved for 12 years with his region’s signature event. Born and raised in Gatineau, Patrice has participated in the event from a young age and could not imagine being anywhere else during the Festival. Year after year, he has walked the grounds of Parc de la Baie with family and friends, greeting and exchanging with festival-goers and volunteers alike. A veritable force of nature, Patrice is committed to sharing his passion and energy with the big family of the FMG. Truly devoted to the event, he is one of the first to arrive on the site in the early morning and one of the last to leave!

Patrice, a man with a heart of gold, has taken the time throughout this unprecedented year to reach out to the Organizing Committee and the FMG team. Even as his household slept, he was hard at work contributing to the creative process in preparation for the 2020 microevents. Patrice, as with each of the editions, was able to energize the team and motivate them to continue despite the many pitfalls encountered. True to himself, our spokesperson who wears his heart on his sleeve when talking about the event, did much more than he would have you believe for the FMG. For these reasons, and for many others, we would like to pay tribute to him and warmly thank him for his involvement in this community. Partly thanks to Patrice, our region was able to come together, even from afar, around the FMG’s festivities. Patrice is part of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival family and proudly represents his region and community. We sincerely hope that he will be with us for a long time to come!

“The love story between Patrice Bélanger and the FMG is nothing new! Even as a student, he was very tenacious and convincing. He would come to me year after year with his microphone and his media accreditation to do interviews for the radio and the student newspaper. Many years later, despite his brilliant career, he has managed to maintain his dynamic personality, his enthusiasm and his keen interest in the event that is the pride of Gatineau residents, all while promoting it with his new microphones … ” explains Jean Boileau, founder of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival and Director of Communications for the City of Gatineau.

Patrice Bélanger received the Jean Boileau award to underline the commitment of the artisans of the event, on September 4, during the FMG’s Comedy Gala which he hosted at the Maison de la culture in Gatineau.

Marie Dompierre and Jean-Pierre Lalonde, 28 Years of Outstanding Commitment!

In 1991, then-amateur photographer Jean-Pierre Lalonde joined the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon family of volunteers as a member of a chase crew. “Talk about a terrific opportunity to get some exclusive shots!” It turned out to be everything he had hoped for, so much so that the following year, along with his wife, Marie Dompierre, he joined the kitchen crew, which was in charge of feeding the small army of volunteers. These two generous Gatineau residents were far from imagining that this was to be the start of a long-term relationship with the region’s biggest event!

Their contribution to and involvement in the organization as volunteers has kept growing over the years, to the point where, today, Marie and Jean-Pierre are counted among the pillars of the organization. They are the bone and sinew of the Festival, and the purpose that lies at its very soul, which is to bring our community together around a moment of shared joy and pride. “What keeps us with the FMG is the sense of family, of being part of a tightly knit gang, not only amongst the volunteers, but with the entire permanent team,” indicated Jean-Pierre. “At the FMG, volunteers are not only the foot soldiers, they are at the heart of the action. The team treats the volunteers with a great deal of respect. We not only get tasks assigned to us, but also responsibilities. And that is not something you find everywhere, it truly is unique to the FMG,” added Marie, who now serves on the Board of Directors, in addition to being responsible for the volunteers.  

“Because of their passion and volunteer work, Marie and Jean-Pierre have for 30 consecutive years supported, fed, organized and cared for the 1,500 volunteers in the organization to ensure that festival-goers get the most out of this big celebration,” explained Jean Boileau, the founder of the Festival and head of communications for Gatineau. “This is an invaluable and unique commitment on the part of a couple whom the FMG has tattooed onto its heart, and that must be underlined!”

The Jean Boileau Award highlights the involvement of the people who make the event. Marie Dompierre and Jean-Pierre Lalonde will receive their award on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage on Saturday, August 31. Congratulations!

Gaston Lepage receives the Jean Boileau Award

Who can forget Gaston Lepage at the controls of his little experimental hot air balloon, which he would fly over the crowds gathered at parc de la Baie? An unabashed lover of the outdoors and open skies, he was the event’s first spokesperson, serving in that capacity from 1992 to 1999.

At the time, Gaston Lepage was an easy choice as spokesperson. He was a hydroplane pilot, and had just completed, in 1991, the script for a movie about a story that took place in a hot air balloon. He knew many pilots, as well as the basics of an aerostation.

The flame that burned so bright within him remains palpable to this day. “A hot air balloon ride is a fireworks that doesn’t need the night in order to light up the sky!” he will tell you without hesitation.

“Gaston Lepage’s involvement as spokesperson helped propel the event into every living room and kitchen in Quebec, and to spread the reputation of Gatineau and its Festival far and wide. For eight years, he presented the aerostation with passion and conviction, and kept attracting visitors. In fact, he was far more than a spokesperson: he was an important ambassador for the Outaouais. For all of his work and commitment, the time has come to tip our hats to the man in the big hat, that great adventurer from Quebec. Thank you Gaston!” noted Jean Boileau, FMG founder and Director of Communications for Ville de Gatineau.

Thérèse Cyr receives the Jean Boileau Award

Ask her anything at all about the Festival’s history, and Thérèse Cyr will have the answer!

As one of the Festival’s founding members, Thérèse has contributed to its growth, in particular by inviting dozens of community associations to join and by getting them to help sell wristband passports before and during the event. Thérèse has been a volunteer with the FMG for 30 years, and is the only one who has been on the organizing committee since the very first edition!

“Her dedication has been a source of inspiration for the volunteers, many of whom have gotten involved precisely because of her,” explained Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival founder and Gatineau’s Director of Communications Jean Boileau.

Diane Latreille receives the Jean Boileau Award

An outstanding volunteer, Diane Latreille, is this year’s recipient of the Jean Boileau Award!

As head of the Lost Children and Infant Care Committee, she relies on a team of 50 volunteers to ensure the well-being of the children throughout the site from the time it opens until it closes. And as if this were not enough, she also makes herself available the week before the event to help welcome RVers!

“Drying tears and comforting fears is not something that just anyone can do, but for Diane Latreille and her team of volunteers, it is more than possible. Through her volunteer work, Diane has created a home on the parc de la Baie site to welcome and care for children who have gotten carried away by the excitement of the activities at the Festival and for a few moments let go of their parents’ hands. For 29 years, she has been the adoptive mother of the Festival’s children, comforting them with her big heart, dedication, and tender smile,” noted Jean Boileau, the founder of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, and the director of communications for Ville de Gatineau.

Berthe Miron receives the Jean Boileau Award

Berthe Miron is one of the founding members of the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, along with Jean Boileau, Claire Vaive and Thérèse Cyr.

“The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival saw some of its grandest years under Berthe Miron’s presidency, with close to 150 hot air balloons and 225,000 visitors annually,” explained Jean Boileau, Festival founder and communications director for Gatineau. “The landmark event of her presidency was in 1998, when the World Hot Air Airship Championship was held for the very first time in North America along with regular hot air balloon flights. Thanks to her determination, her commitment to compromise and justice, during the six years of her presidency, she managed to earn the trust of the 1,500 volunteers and members of the organizing committee, and turned the Festival into a source of pride for the residents of Gatineau and the Outaouais,” added Mr. Boileau.

The Jean Boileau Award highlights the involvement of the people who make the event. Berthe Miron will receive her award on the Casino Lac-Leamy Stage on Sunday, September 6.

Hugo Girard receives the Jean Boileau Award

In 1999, Gatineau police officer Hugo Girard suggested to Jean Boileau that the Festival include strength athlete demonstrations. The rest is history! This larger than life athlete was crowned world champion in 2002, and was instrumental in promoting the athletic side of this sport. He was the North American champion in 2001 and 2002, and once even pulled an 80-tonne Boeing 737!Although he no longer competes, he is deeply involve…d in organizing our North American Championship! The Jean Boileau Award highlights the involvement of the people who make the event. Hugo, one of the Festival’s great ambassadors received his award on the Loto-Québec Stage on Sunday, August 31.

Rolly Hammond receives the Jean Boileau Award

 Gatineau’s Rolly Hammond, line producer for the event from 1992 to 1999, will receive the Jean Boileau Award for this 26th edition! “Rolly Hammond is the one to whom we owe the continuous entertainment formula used throughout parc de la Baie. From the main stage to the rides, he helped bring heart and meaning to this big family party,” explained Festival founder Jean Boileau. The 86 year-old Rolly Hammond has had a unique career! Actor, producer, impersonator and entertainer, he has made the rounds of the world of showbiz, from Quebec to Hollywood. In addition to being the French voice of Donald Duck, he has shared the stage with some of the biggest names, including Ray Charles and Johnny Cash! It is thanks to his contacts and experience that the Festival was able to attract famous artists such as Céline Dion, Gilles Vigneault, Alannah Myles and Robert Charlebois.

Claire Vaive receives the Jean Boileau Award!

 For this 25th anniversary, the Jean Boileau award, which is given once a year to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the Festival, goes to Claire Vaive. As the founding president, Claire Vaive managed to convince local elected officials, volunteers, associations and businesses of the need to create an event for Gatineau residents and families that would give them a chance to get together and that would position the region on the national and international playing field.

Walter Grishkot received the Jean Boileau award!

The Jean Boileau award for this 24th edition goes posthumously to Walter Grishkot, founder and organizer over 30 years of the Adirondack Balloon Festival (Glens Falls, New York).

Walter Grishkot, who died in May 2011 at the age of 85, was a powerful ally in promoting the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival among American pilots and media.

Lyne Leduc receives the Jean Boileau Award

The 23rd Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival Jean Boileau Award goes to Lyne Leduc. This is the third time that the Festival gives this award to a pillar of this great gathering. Ms. Leduc has been looking after wristband-passport pre-sales and sales since the very first editions of the Festival. “A lot has changed,” she points out. « Every year, we make adjustments to better meet the needs of our guests and volunteers. » She adds: « I’ve always enjoyed what I do, working with a terrific team. »

Jean-Claude Barbe receives the Jean Boileau Award

For a second year, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival will be giving the Jean Boileau award to a pillar of this cultural event. This year’s honouree is Jean-Claude Barbe.

Mr. Barbe has been in charge of the electrical and plumbing crews at the site since the very first edition. This is an enormous responsibility when you consider the size of the site!

« I am very fortunate to have been part of the Festival since its beginning and to have had the chance to work with people I greatly appreciate », indicated the man of the hour.

Carolyn Mitrow – First Winner of the Jean Boileau Award

Carolyn, a Chelsea resident who has been a hot air balloon pilot since 1987, was for many years involved with the hot air balloon side of the Festival, among other things as the flight director. Her leadership and skills played a large part in the Festival’s growth.

Ms. Mitrow received her award, a work by artist Monique Savard, from Jean Boileau, the founder of the event, and Alain Fredette, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, on the Molson Dry Main Stage, on Saturday, August 30, 2008.