by Stephen Johnson
For our family, Labour Day weekend means one thing, looking up in the sky and seeing all the amazing hot air balloons from the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. This year we decided to attend the festival as well to check out the on-site activities.
When we arrived at the festival, the first thing we saw was a giant hot air balloon lying on it’s side. It was a chance for everyone to step into a hot air balloon. It felt like we were transported to another world. There was enough space inside to easily fit a hundred people. We were also able to ask questions to the pilot who filled us in on the inner-workings of the balloon.
Upon leaving the balloon, we were treated to another spectacle. Part of the festival included a strongman competition. Huge guys performed amazing feats of strength including pulling a semi-truck by rope. I have a hard enough time opening the pickle jar lid so their strength was truly impressive.
From the strength competition we moved on to another extreme activity. As part of the family activity area, there was a display about reptiles. Our son David loved seeing the snakes, turtles and even an alligator. Then he discovered the exhibit was also selling fried crickets and mealworms that you could eat. David has long expressed a desire to eat insects and I thought this might be a safe way to try. My wife, Sandy, had another idea. As part of the condition, I had to eat a cricket as well. We both decided to bite the bullet or in this case, the cricket. I can’t say it was the tastiest thing I have ever eaten but it wasn’t half bad either.
Part of the attraction of the festival are all the concerts that go along with your admission. I wanted to see the famous Quebecois crooner Michel Louvain. Although it isn’t really my style of music, he played a big role when I was learning French. He used to have an entertainment style program on television. His entertaining yet simple stories were easy enough for an anglophone like me to understand. He was like a gateway into Quebecois culture and song.
We wrapped up our time at the festival by going to see the hot air balloons. We had a chance to see about thirty or so balloons inflate. There were all different style of balloons ranging from cartoon characters to the more traditional. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating for the balloons to take flight. It was still breathtaking to see such a large number of inflated balloons.
We had intended to check out the amusement rides as well but by this time, everyone was tired. I loved the festival because it felt like the perfect way to wrap up the summer. Also, it is a wonderful chance for anyone who may like to practice their French even though it is easy to get service in English.
The Hot Air Balloon Fest will certainly be a new family tradition every Labour Day.