Snow may have been falling on Montreal’s Old Port, with temperatures in the bone-chilling category, but that didn’t stop the exuberant dancers during the city’s first Igloofest after a Covid pause.
In their bright-colored snowsuits, woollen caps on their heads and glasses of hot wine in hand, celebrants turned out for the first festival in two years.
So what, they seemed to say, if temperatures were on the wrong side of zero.
“The atmosphere is really cool, like being in a nightclub; you have to do it at least once in your life,” said 34-year-old Laurent Maurenas, a Frenchman living in Quebec. “Yes, it’s a bit cold at first, but you dance and you forget.”
Zoe Charbonneau, 29, was attending her 13th Igloofest.
“For me,” she said, “the Igloofest is Montreal, and Montreal is my great love.
“The Igloofest is the biggest event in my city, and I’m proud of it,” she added, dancing the whole time.
For this 15th edition of the festival, taking place every weekend through February 11, a record 85,000 tickets have been sold.
Festival co-founder Nicolas Cournoyer said that shows that people need to get out. “It’s therapeutic for everyone to come together like this,” he said.
“When we started Igloofest, it was to get people outdoors, to get them to stop complaining about winter and start enjoying it,” said the 50-year-old Cournoyer, a big fan of electronic music.
“When we started hearing people saying they couldn’t wait for winter to arrive because Igloofest was coming up, we knew we had succeeded,” he added.
“People come to any festival in a festive spirit, but with the Igloofest it’s even more than that,” said Heidy P., a Canadian DJ on the stage Thursday evening for a sold-out event.
“From the moment people arrive, they start dancing to warm up. To come here despite the weather, they must really want to be here… It’s great to see!” she said.
Other DJs are just as enthusiastic about the crowd, Cournoyer said, adding, “The interaction between the performers and the public is terrific.”
Wearing a triple layer of clothing, bringing spare socks, downing strong drinks or eating a nice hot raclette, Montrealers embrace anything that wards off the cold.
The best tactic, according to 22-year-old Xavier Gagnon: wearing his mother’s old neon-pink ski jacket.
Montreal is known for the numerous festivals that enliven its streets and parks during the summer. Igloofest helps fill in the other end of the calendar.
In December 2021, the festival sold 60,000 tickets. But in the end, a province-wide lockdown owing to a surge in the Omicron variant of Covid brought a sudden halt to cultural events.
This year, festivalgoers are making up for lost time, grilling marshmallows over fires in open barrels, dancing or taking toboggan rides under strobe lights.
One elderly attendee, Armelle Milin-Yvinec, said she was thoroughly enjoying herself.
“I think this is great,” she said with a huge smile. “I came with my daughter and we’re having a ball!”