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February 2008 - Winter Carnival Quebec City

February 10th - The Winter Carnival Night Parade

Allow me to set this scene for you.  :)  Imagine a temperature of around 20 degrees.  The sun has gone down.  You make your way to the other side of the city - hopes are high for what is called "Winter Carnivals Night Parade."  Now we have never been to a night parade before (OK well Disney when I was like 7 years old…but that doesn’t count).  Anyway…it is a cloudy evening.  Wind is blowing lightly. 

  We are going to the Winter Carnival Parade with my friends Adam and Keith.  I have known Adam and Keith for about six years now.  We first met in Toronto, when I lived up there.  Adam is big into photography.  Keith has a brother here in Quebec.  He is currently serving in the Canadian Military in Afghanistan.  He should be back in a month or two.  Keith moved back here because his brother asked him to.  So Keith is excited that his brother will be returning home soon.

  Anyway, as we make our way towards the parade route we see a flurry or two.  Nothing major.  All good.  The drive takes about 15-20 minutes.  We left the hotel at 6:30.  The parade STARTS at 7 p.m.  No problem!  We arrive in time to see hundreds of people streaming towards the parade route.  Parking is a nightmare.  Our friend Adam and Keith are hosting our visit tonight.  Adam is driving and manages to find a great parking spot.  We are now only one block from the parade route.  We hurry along in an attempt to find a good standing spot. 

  Once we arrive at the street, that the parade will come down, we find a little hill and decide that this will be a great spot to watch the parade.  We notice a Tim Horton’s behind us and hot chocolate does sound good.  So we all decide to go grab a cup.  The line is just about out the door.  It seems that everyone has decided that coffee and hot chocolate sounds good!  We are in there about 10 minutes.  Not bad.

  We head back for our little spot.  I decide to build up my little hill with some snow.  I pile the snow on and pack it down.  Even if I can get a few inches higher then I can see better.  It is now 7:20 p.m.  We stare intently towards the direction where the parade will arrive from.  We don’t see much.  Behind us, on top of the Burger King, is a DJ.  He is playing all sorts of music.  "Hey Mickey you’re so fine…you’re so fine you blow my mind - hey Mickey" - don’t I know this song from when I was in high school?  I think so.  Flashback to the ’80s.  So the music is nice.  People are dancing.  There is an older woman in front of us that appears to be having a great time.  She has been dancing since we arrived.  I finally figured out why.  After about 20 minutes it starts getting a little cold.  No big deal though because I am certain that the parade will start at any time. 

  At 8 p.m. we are sure that we see some lights down the street.  This must be it!   The parade is starting.  We anxiously await the first float.  I joke about there probably not being any cheerleaders in shorts.  Snow starts to fall.  Oh GREAT - I think.  SNOW!  This is just what the parade needs.  A winter carnival parade should surely have snow just to make it feel right. 

  At 8:05 p.m. we realize that the lights we saw where simply a police car.  Oh well - perhaps this means the parade will start soon.  Joey is saying that his fingers are getting cold.  I give it a half hearted - well if they start to burn then let me know.  We might need to go inside for a few minutes.

  At 8:30 p.m. we think we see the parade.  I announce to everyone that I see it - I see it.  I see some lights coming.  This must be it.  The parade has finally arrived.  We have now been standing out in the cold and snow for over 1 1/2 hours.  Joey is telling me that his fingers feel pretty cold.  He has gloves on but apparently not the best.  My toes are starting to get cold - even though I have winter boots and wool socks on.

  At 8:35 p.m we see that the lights we saw were actually simply a van coming down the road.  We are not sure why but some sort of van advertising some company.  It is in French so I can’t read it.  At this point I am having flashbacks to the Toronto Christmas Parade back in 2003.  I went with Andrus and David.  Let’s just say it was FREEZING and a raging snowstorm covered us in snow.  It was fun though - not sure I would do it twice.  Starting to look like I WILL be doing it twice - except this time it will be in Quebec instead of Toronto.

  At 8:45 p.m  I see some lights.  Using caution, since we had been disappointed the last few times, I announced that I see some lights but won’t commit as  to what they are.  The snow starts to fall harder.  Joey’s hat and shoulders are not turning white.  My camera bag is turning white.  The wind is blowing a bit harder.  By this time we are all cold.  We debate, in our minds, whether or not this was a wise choice of activities for the evening.  We had not had dinner yet.  We had planned on eating afterwards.  Oh well, surely the parade would start shortly.

  At 9:00 p.m.  there still was no sign of the parade.  The snow was now falling steadily.  Joey tells me that his fingers are really getting cold now.  I suggest he go in for a bit.  He says he is afraid he might miss the parade.  lol

  At around 9:20 p.m. we see some lights.  This time it appears that the parade is realllllly going to start.  We see a truck coming.  This must be it!  After 2 hours of waiting the parade is finally here!!!!!!  The truck inches towards us…slowly as you might expect from a parade.  In front of the truck are two police cars - they go slowly.  This is the third time tonight that the police cars have passed us by (the same ones because they would go to the end of the parade route and turn around and return to the front).  ANYWAY - this is the parade!

  At 9:30 p.m. the truck finallys arrives at our location.  It is an OREO truck.  We think…OK - well ummm an OREO truck.  Better than nothing.  Right?  Maybe they will throw us some cookies.  YES YES they are throwing something into the crowd.  COOKIES - surely these must be cookies from the OREO cookie truck.  So Joey puts his hands into the air - I wave back and forth - making every attempt to get us some cookies.  Here they come - they are coming - flying through the air towards Joey is a box.  A BOX OF COOKIES!   No wait…these are not cookies.  Joey grabs the box and it is cereal.  A box of cereal.  Joey laughs and decides that they are throwing cereal into the ground to stave off starvation.  We have only been there for 2 1/2 hours - standing in the snow and cold. 

  FINALLY the parade arrives.  Floats - lights - DJ music playing loudly - it all had a Mardi Gras flavor to it.  People were clapping and shouting.  Kids were blowing into their Caribou horns (these are 2 foot long pipe like things that kids blow into - they make a very loud sound like a Caribou).  So the music is going loud and we are all loving it.  Lot of nice floats.  The parade is several blocks long.  It lasted until about 10:45.  The snow was a nice touch.  By the time it was over, however, we were all frozen.  My feet were froze - Joey’s hands were froze - Adam and Keith took it all in good stride (perhaps because they are Canadian). 

  In the end, we decided that it was worth the wait.  Scary…I know.

  I have finally come to the conclusion that people in Quebec EMBRACE winter.  They love winter (or at least they act as if they do for the tourists).  They make the best of what most people would consider bad weather.  They have festivities in the snow.  They play in the snow.  They walk in the snow.  They have parades in the snow.  They have BBQ stands in the snow.  They even fly kites in the snow.  They stand for hours just to see their favorite snowman - Bonhomme!  I think I have finally discovered a place that I could live!!!!!

  Here are some photos that I took during the parade

  The day started out with a decent snow.  Several inches fell during
  the morning hours.


  Night parade float.



  I piled up some snow for a better
  view of the parade.


  Some nice floats.  There was a lot of music.  Several people said
  it reminded them of a Mardi Grad Parade.










  Some light snow started to fall late in the evening.  A nice touch from mother

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