These people are nuts.
The thermometer says it’s zero, yet there are thousands of people on the Plains of Abraham just beyond the fortified colonial walls of Quebec City – and they’re having an outdoor party.
I’m a visitor from a temperate climate where people whine if the overnight low is below freezing and where they can’t comprehend a day that stays in single digits – and I’m talking Fahrenheit, not that silly Celsius stuff where you have to multiply by two and add 32.
The party is Carnaval de Quebec, a mid-winter excuse to rip and roar, generate some heat, see how rosy your cheeks can get and decide whether whiskey with maple syrup really is palatable. (Answer: It is, but it never will be my drink of choice.)
Bonhomme Carnaval, an NBA-sized snowman character who may be more popular with the kids than Santa Claus, reigns over Carnaval de Quebec for 17 days and three weekends of activity.
There’s a giant outdoor stage with an ice-sculpture backdrop, blaring techno music, a Broadway-style dance show, a 120-meter ice slide, snowshoeing, ice-skating, sleigh rides and a competition between a pop singer and an opera tenor.
There are fireworks, miraculous illuminations of public buildings, Mardi Gras-style parades, human foosball on ice and the most insane canoe race imaginable across the ice-choked St. Lawrence River.
That list only scratches the surface. It’s a tradition that marked its 59th year in 2013, and its goal is to bring joy, happiness and economic activity to a city that otherwise would resemble a giant ice cube.
It’s the ultimate in taking what you have and having fun with it in the style of, “If life give you lemons, make lemonade.”
In Quebec City’s case, it’s, “If life gives you snow and ice and freezing temperature, make Carnaval.”
(Carnaval de Quebec 2013 wraps up Feb. 17. Year-round Quebec City visitor information is right here.)