May 23, 2013

Montreal festival season starts now

By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — Festival season in Montreal is officially under way. Here’s where to get your festival fix this summer.

First up, the “biere” is here. The festival season begins with a toast at Festival Mondial de la Biere, or the International Beer Festival, which features some 500 beers from more than 120 breweries from around the world. The event runs Wednesday, May 29, through Sunday, June 2, at new downtown digs: Palais de Congres, both indoors and outside on the esplanade. There’s live music and tasty finger food, too. Admission is free. Tasting coupons cost $1 each; one tasting ranges from two to six coupons. Visit for more information.

The Montreal Grand Prix rolls into town Friday, June 7, through Sunday, June 9, with high-octane Formula One-style racing at Jean Drapeau Park on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. This one’s a pretty big draw. When the racing’s not on, the party is — the nonstop party central is located along downtown’s Crescent Street. Visit or for details.

Downtown’s fairly new Place des Festivals, located near Place des Arts, hosts a number of summertime events and fests. Opening the season here (and closing many city streets) is Les FrancoFolies de Montreal, which offers an original lineup of Francophone music from around the world. Many concerts are free and held outdoors. It runs Thursday, June 13, through Saturday, June 22. Call (514) 876-8989 or visit for information.

Montreal’s Gay Village hosts a number of events. Aires Libres closes Ste. Catherine Street to vehicular traffic and turns it into one giant outdoor restaurant terrace now through Labor Day. Visit for more information. The 14th edition of Festival Montreal en Arts, or FIMA, adds an outdoor art gallery to the St. Catherine Street mix, with works of more than 125 artists Wednesday, June 12, through Sunday, June 16. For details, visit And there are two separate pride celebrations. One features music and dance hosted by Divers/Cite Monday, July 29, through Sunday, Aug. 4. Visit for more information. More festivities start Monday, Aug. 12, complete with a centerpiece pride parade Sunday, Aug. 18. Visit for details on that celebration.

Here’s a big-bang theory that’s been proven successful. The Montreal International Fireworks Festival offers nine playful pyrotechnic displays from Saturday, June 22, through Saturday, Aug. 3. Expect a crowd — some 200,000 folks show up for each event. The shows are held at 10 p.m., rain or shine, and never has a display been canceled. The 2013 schedule is as follows: June 22, Australia; June 28, England; July 5, Hong Kong/China; July 12, Spain; July 20, United States; July 24, Croatia; July 31, Italy; and a tribute to U2 on Aug. 3. Call (800) 797-4537 or visit for details.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival celebrates its 34th edition this year from Friday, June 28, through Sunday, July 7. The ticketed lineup includes George Benson, Boz Scaggs, Martha Wainwright, Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin and Chris Isaak. In addition, more than 350 free outdoor concerts will be centered at Place des Festivals downtown. The big outdoor concerts include the opening festival show by Feist on Friday, June 28. For information, call (888) 515-0515 or visit

The Just for Laughs Festival offers traditional stand-up comedy, unique theater performances and lots of funny, free events centered at Place des Festivals. SNL alum Seth Meyers hosts the Saturday, July 27, Just for Laughs Gala. This year’s edition runs from Wednesday, July 10, through Sunday, July 28, with the free outdoor fun scheduled for the middle to the end of July. Call (514) 790-4242 or visit for details.

Colorful Chinese culture and fun can be had at the Montreal Dragon Boat Challenge at Olympic Basin on Jean Drapeau Park the weekend of July 13 and 14. The event features a new sponsor and website, which now offers the regional H2O Dragon Boat Montreal Challenge with a dragon-boat Triple Crown. Visit for more information.

The FanTasia Film Festival features the latest fantasy, martial arts, comedy, drama and animated movies from throughout Asia and the world — and perhaps one of Montreal’s most loyal and dedicated festival fan bases. It runs Thursday, July 18, through Tuesday, Aug. 6. For questions, call (514) 490-9354 or visit

Finally, indie-music fans to the front of the line for the eighth edition of the Osheaga Music Festival, a three-day summer bash of outdoor music Friday through Sunday, Aug. 2 through 4, at Jean Drapeau Park. This year’s impressive lineup includes The Cure, Mumford and Sons, Phoenix, Frank Ocean, Beck, New Order, Vampire Weekend, The Lumineers, Hot Chip, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Beach House, Alt-J, and Imagine Dragons — more than 80 musical acts in all. Visit for ticket information.

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