Press-Republican

February 23, 2013

Annual festival aims to shake winter doldrums

Annualfestivaltakes aimat winterdoldrums

By STEVEN HOWELL
Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — Montreal en Lumiere, Montreal’s midwinter bash, serves up some fine dining, performance art and family-style fun. 

Here are some highlights of this year’s Montreal en Lumiere, which runs through Sunday, March 3.

FAMILY FUN

The main outdoor events take place at Place des Festivals in the heart of downtown, adjacent to the Place des Arts complex.

The outdoor site features free concerts, a family-fun zone, multimedia-interactive light shows and a 60-foot indoor sphere where revelers can dance the night away.

Photography takes center stage with many events, including “La Grande Family Photo,” which is held at 7:30 tonight. Here, visitors and winter revelers get their chance to say “Cheese” in a really big way — participants receive handheld sparklers and get to pose for a gigantic photo that will be posted on the event webpage.

And speaking of cheese, if a healthy snack is in order, just across the street, Complexe Desjardins hosts the “Festival of our Cheeses,” a showcase of tasty provincial-cheese workshops and tastings. It starts at 11:30 a.m.

More photo ops can be enjoyed at two exhibitions: “10 years of Nuit Blanche in Photos,” which pays tribute to the fest’s closing event in photos and poster art, and “Images of Buenos Aires,” a colorful look at the city’s neighborhoods, public squares and monuments. The exhibit showcases Buenos Aires as this year’s international foodie destination.

The on-site family-fun zone offers many activities, including a Ferris wheel and a hockey-shootout-skill activity. Additionally, there is an interactive laser event where attendees can draw an original piece of art that’s projected onto a nearby building as well as the perennial favorite ice slide that tallies in at 360 feet long complete with twists, turns and integrated light and sound effects.

Care to dance? An Argentinean-themed festival wouldn’t be complete without free tango demonstrations and workshops hosted by Dance School Las Piernas. The lessons are held at 5:30 p.m. at the Place des Arts esplanade today; Wednesday, Feb. 27; Thursday, Feb. 28; Friday, March 1; and Saturday, March 2.

The space also provides some tasty snacks, including a milk-and-chocolate bar, toasty Belgian waffles, and cafe and bistro offerings.

The outdoor rides and activities are free. The site is open daily during the fest except for Monday, Feb. 25, and Tuesday, Feb. 26. Hours vary but are mostly evenings during the week and all day on weekends. Check the website for the complete schedule.

PERFORMANCES

Dozens of music, dance, circus and theater performances also reign under the Montreal en Lumiere umbrella.

La Tohu, Montreal’s premier circus venue, located in the St. Michel neighborhood, hosts Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, which loosely translates to the World Circus Festival of Tomorrow. The event features performances by the world’s best circus performers.

Performances are held now through Sunday, March 3. Adult tickets cost $36 to $55. For more information, visit www.tohu.ca.

ALL-NIGHTER

Closing Montreal en Lumiere is Nuit Blanche, a citywide evening of midnight museum visits, comedy acts, live concerts, ice-skating, movie screenings and theater that promises to keep attendees up all night long. This year’s milestone 10th anniversary features more than 100 activities. Many festivities are free, and shuttle service is also provided at no charge. Nuit Blanche begins the evening of Saturday, March 2, and goes well into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

What to expect in the middle of the night? Ice fishing at the Clock Tower Basin in the Old Port; a night at the museum, as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts stays open until 2 a.m. for visits to their latest exhibition, “Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon” (offered at a reduced admission of $10); and free, guided art strolls along Montreal’s famed Underground City with “Art Souterrain,” or Art Underground.

If you manage to stay up all night long, Pointe-a-Calliere once again hosts Port Symphonies, an outdoor, urban concert featuring train bells, tugboat whistles and Japanese taiko drums with “Cymbidium,” an original composition by Japanese conductor Kota Nakamura. It’s held for free at 1:30 p.m. Sundays, March 3 and 10, at Place Royale near the museum in the Old Port.

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.

TO LEARN MORE For more information, venue locations and ticket prices, call (514) 288-9955 or visit www.montreal enlumiere.com.