New France Festival

Big decision: peasant or bourgeoisie? These are the kinds of mind-benders I struggle with at the New France Festival, Québec City’s summertime celebration of culture, history and heritage.

The festival, Aug. 1-5, is a delightful time warp. And wiggling into the lace-up gown of a 17th-century member of the bourgeois or peasant class is all part of playing festival “dress-up” in Old Québec. Street actors, locals and visitors grab their piece of joie de vivre by stepping into costumes, embracing their roles, letting their hair down and becoming part of the festival.

It’s impossible to duck into an alleyway or small cobblestone square without being swept into the energy of one of the city’s most popular annual events. The centuries slip away and the monuments, ramparts and picturesque streets of Old Québec buzz with activities, markets and music showing how the first settlers lived, dressed and ate.

Each year, the New France Festival explores a particular slice of life from the French colonies of the 17th and 18th centuries. In 2012 the spotlight shines on the Spirit of Discoveries — the inventions, techniques and arts that developed at the time. Wonder what the first thermometer looked like? It’s a metre-and-a-half high and will be on display in the Invention Yard. Glassmakers, forgers, stonecarvers, rope makers and astronomers will wander the narrow streets, performing and drawing guests into their creative worlds of invention.

This joie de vivre is hard work. At the Flavours Market I munch my way through a tasting smorgasbord of traditional Québecois foods — maple syrup, plump raspberries, homemade ice cream and seafood. I discover that the inventor of the lace-up dress was a genius — the more I eat, the more I can loosen the strings.

Don’t miss: The parade is the tradition that opens the festival. It’s a pageantry of colour, songs and music — led by more than a dozen five-metre-high Giants embodying the culture at the root of New France.

Tourisme Québec

Photo ©Jean-Evard Bilodeau/ New France Festival

Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.