That’s how Québec City’s winter carnival is being marketed these days. The event is on until February 13th and is only outranked in size by carnivals in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. It’s estimated to generate more than $30-million each year for the local economy. And while the carnival and its mascot Bonhomme now have a strong following, it wasn’t always this way. For a look at the history of what started as a way to attract tourists during cold months, read this article by Rhéal Seguin published in the Globe & Mail in 2004.
Here’s an excerpt:
Few believed that the carnival could become a major annual winter festival. It took Louis Paré, a Quebec City tourism officer, four years to persuade local businessmen to organize the first carnival in 1955. The city had organized winter festivals on a regular basis since 1894, but the event had died out after the Second World War.
Paré understood the need to create a mascot to market the event. A local businessman, inspired by a scarecrow-type figure used in European festivals, suggested creating a jovial snowman, dressed in traditional Quebec garments that the coureurs de bois wore centuries earlier. After all, besides being one of the oldest cities in North America, the region also had one of the highest levels of snow precipitation in the world. So Bonhomme was born, someone who would disappear to the North Pole at the end of the festival and return to rule over the city in the middle of each winter.