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July 11, 2014

Quebec's proliferation of festivals

Woodstock en Beauce celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.

Like the original in upstate New York — now celebrating its 45th anniversary — rain, mud and generally miserable conditions over the years have plagued the gathering in a farmer’s field an hour south of Quebec City.

Organizers were ready to pull the plug on the festival but managed to get a reprieve in financing.

This year’s edition, though, blessed with glorious sun and muggy temperatures, drew some 60,000 partyers and succeeded in its goal, according to organizers, in becoming the biggest musical camp-out in the country. (In case you were wondering, the only veteran of the iconic 1969 festival to play the Beauce version was Joe Cocker, in 2003).

Woodstock en Beauce is just one of dozens and dozens of festivals held across Quebec each summer. You name it, from poutine to punk rock, there’s at least one festival dedicated to whatever music genre or edible commodity you can imagine ready and eager to harvest your tourist dollar.

In Quebec City alone, it’s a non-stop parade of festivals beginning in early June and stretching to October. Comedy (with big ticket draw Jerry Seinfeld), followed by the mammoth Festival d’été music extravaganza (would you believe 70,000 people to see Journey?), followed by Nouvelle France, wine, fireworks, beer, opera, jazz, hot air balloons, African music, pride, magic, Celts, tall ships and emerging indie bands.

One of the most colorful and popular festivals in Quebec City, the International Military Music Festival, was not able to pull off the same funding trick as their post-hippie friends in Beauce. Shortly after last year’s gathering wrapped in August, organizers threw in the towel, saying cuts in federal government funding killed the event.

The loss of that festival and the seemingly endless proliferation of other festivals around the province is provoking discussion of whether Quebec has reached a saturation point for events that depend on shrinking government funding and over-stretched corporate sponsorships.

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