MONTREAL -- Summer isn't over until the festivals are done. Here's how to beckon fall with a late summer bang in Montreal.
When pigs fly! The International Balloon Festival of St. Jean sur Richelieu takes flight at the St. Jean sur Richelieu Municipal Airport this Saturday through Aug. 22. The site features games, rides and concerts, but the stars of the show -- the really big stars -- are the 100-plus colorful hot-air balloons that depart every day of the festival.
Most of the balloons are the traditional hot-air balloon shape, but 20 or so boast fun character themes such as a busy bee, a court jester and this year two pink flying pigs. Bring the camera -- it's quite something to see. Morning flights depart at 6 a.m. at various locations near the airport.
The more popular evening departures lift off around 6 p.m. from the airport grounds where the fest is centered, but only if the weather conditions -- cool temperatures and light winds -- are just right.
This year's musical guests include "American Idol" star Adam Lambert Saturday and rapper Akon Aug. 21. Also performing is local Montreal singing sensation Bobby Bazini. He's only 20 years old and well on his way to international stardom. His single, "I Wonder," has been heard on radio airwaves north of the border all summer long. Have a listen at www.myspace.com/bobbybazini. He performs at the Balloon Fest on Sunday.
To get to the St. Jean Municipal Airport take Autoroute 10 to exit 22, then Route 35 south, exit 45. A one-day pass costs $16 for those 13 and older ($20 on Saturdays); and $7 children 3 to 12. Concerts are included; parking and rides extra. Hot air-balloon rides start at $160. Call (450) 347-9555, or visit www.montgolfieres.com.
Next, a visit to Old Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica is always a spiritual stunner. Until Aug. 22, your reverential visit is accompanied by some beautiful music -- particularly a bravado ditty or two played on the magnificent on-site Casavant Freres organ as the Basilica plays host to the International Organ Festival. The final two performances are Sunday and Aug. 22 from 7 to 8 p.m. Call (514) 842-2925, or visit www.basiliquenddm.org.
Montreal hosts two gay pride celebrations (which seems to cause its share of confusion to visitors and locals, alike).
A music and dance event -- but no parade -- was hosted by Divers/Cite two weekends ago. Another pride week is hosted by the local gay business merchants with even more music and outdoor festivities, which is on now through this weekend. If you love a parade, then this is the party you want.
This year's expanded pride parade runs along Rene Levesque Boulevard from downtown to the Gay Village at 1 p.m. Sunday. Visit www.fiertemontrealpride.com for more info.
Finally, it's your last weekend to catch some pyrotechnics at the Montreal International Fireworks Festival. After a nine-week summer stint, the 26th edition of Montreal's most colorful festival comes to a close with the presentation of the Jupiter Awards ceremony. Up for grabs is the coveted gold, silver and bronze Jupiters, which go to the top three countries who offered the most spectacular fireworks displays this summer.
The final show takes place at 10 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine. Anywhere on or near the Jacques Cartier Bridge makes for a good vantage point from which to view the pyrotechnics. Call (800) 797-4537, or visit www.internationaldesfeuxloto-quebec.com.