By STEVEN HOWELL, Press-Republican
---- — MONTREAL — The big bang is on.
Montreal’s most colorful summer fest takes to the night skies beginning Saturday with the 28th edition of the International Fireworks Competition, hosted by La Ronde Amusement Park.
In all, nine thematic pyrotechnic displays — eight from international pyrotechnic companies and a final La Ronde closing show — will take place on a new schedule of various Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer.
Opening the competition Saturday is Aoki Fireworks from Japan. Its theme, “Discover Hanabi,” highlights an ancient millennium-old pyrotechnic-art tradition.
On July 7, Switzerland’s SUGYP fireworks company presents “Aero-Folies,” which pays tribute to the past, present and future of aeronautics.
Home country Canada takes its turn July 14, and the fest switches to a new weekday night — Tuesday — for Greece, which makes its festival debut July 17.
France explores the wondrous world of Jules Verne July 21, with Portugal showcasing traditional Fado music July 24.
Italy offers “The Prophet Tales” July 27, and the United Sates pays tribute to the Disney classic with “Pyro Fantasia” on July 31.
The teams will compete for the coveted Jupiter Award. Chosen by a jury of 12, the top three countries receive a gold, silver or bronze Jupiter Award, respectively. The shows are judged on a number of criteria, including diversity and richness of color, soundtrack, synchronization between music and display, technical design and use of space and concept.
Closing out the festival is the La Ronde-hosted tribute to the music of Queen on Aug. 3.
The fireworks are held at 10 p.m., rain or shine. And this is a pretty good bet — since the competition first began in 1985, it has never been canceled due to bad weather.
Onlookers can listen to the accompanying soundtrack by tuning in to station 105.7 Rhythm FM.
The fireworks can be viewed for free at a number of places in Montreal, including near — or on — the Jacques Cartier Bridge, which is closed to traffic beginning at 8 p.m. on fireworks nights. Your best bet is to ditch the car and take Metro station Papineau and simply follow the crowd. Other suggested vantage points include the Gay Village, the Old Port, Jean Drapeau Park and Longueil on the South Shore.
La Ronde also offers optional paid grandstand seating on fireworks nights when viewed from inside the park. And speaking of La Ronde, the Six Flags theme park has a few new rides and attractions to enjoy this summer.
Two new, free circus-themed acrobatics shows make their debut: “Acrobates,” which is held on fireworks nights; and “Cirq’O,” which runs Aug. 3 though Sept. 3.
Boasting more than 40 rides in all, La Ronde’s latest edition is Vol Ultime, a new tower-style swing carousel that lifts visitors to a height of 150 feet in the air.
Daily admission to La Ronde costs $42.99 (Canadian dollars) or $33.99 for junior visitors under 48 inches tall.
Admission to La Ronde with grandstand seating on fireworks night ranges from $50.99 to $56.99. While the seats get visitors up close to some smaller fireworks displays, the show can still be enjoyed from almost anywhere in the park for the regular admission price. Parking on fireworks nights costs $20.
To get to La Ronde, travel north on I-87, cross the border, continue on Autoroute 15 North and then follow the signs for the Jacques Cartier Bridge. The exit to La Ronde is halfway across the bridge.
For more information, call (514) 397-2000 or visit