Quebec City, Canada:
Winter Carnival runs this January 29 – February 14.
The happy group of fifteen came pouring around the bend; men and women, some young some older, dressed in boots, hats, gloves . . . and bathing suits. Walking single file through the snow, they approached a small makeshift mound and were greeted by the famous master of ceremonies, “Bonhomme,” as
Quebec City’s annual Winter Carnival’s Snow Bath officially opened. The huge audience, suitably dressed for the 20-degree F. weather, began taunting and laughing at the would-be “snow bathers.” Playful snowballs immediately began to fly between the audience, participants and even Bonhomme. People shrieked and howled as snowballs flew through the air occasionally hitting someone. “This is a ball, you can’t ask for anything better,” said visitor Sarah Brooks from
Ashland, Maine. Up on stage, Mark Boissy, a shivering twenty something man from Montreal, wearing boots, gloves and a multicolored bathing suit said, “This is my first time here, and it’s simply crazy, but I’d do it again!” After about ten minutes of freezing frivolity, the bathers were ushered out and another group marched forward in similar fashion. This time, a lithe, gorgeous Brazilian woman wearing boots and a thong bikini immediately got the crowd’s attention. As she coyly posed for pictures other bathers made snow angels and then promptly tackled Bonhomme for an impromptu snow scrum. The crowd roared as bare flesh hit the snow. “Wow, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” shouted Pam Deverage of
Boston. She then scooped up a mitten full of snow, packed it into a snowball and threw it at the stage. Her throw nailed a middle aged guy in the chest who laughed and tossed one back. Last year, 79 hardy snow bathers – a new record – braved the elements.The Snow Bath is one of the wild activities in the annual Quebec Winter Carnival, the largest such winter festival in the world. The upcoming Carnival – the 56th (January 29 to February 14, 2010) will have
Quebec City rocking day and night defying, and indeed welcoming the cold of winter. This year’s Carnival theme is “Carnival Makes You Dance,” with dancing related activities all over town.
“Bonhomme,” the snowman icon is a “living” symbol of the Winter Carnival. With his bright red bonnet and sash, the slightly weird and chubby Michelin-man-like character is not only a beloved ambassador, but also the consummate pitchman, whose “effigy” graces nearly every
Quebec City light pole, doorway, product and menu during Carnival. Bonhomme (meaning good man in French) actually speaks, bilingually, mais oui.
“I come from a land far away, and bring happiness to everyone,” he said one morning in a gruff semi-metallic voice. You’ve got to experience Bonhomme live to appreciate his quirky behavior.
See www.carnaval.qc.ca for further information.
All text & photos c. Bob Ecker