Press release for immediate distibution

Wrap-up of the 11th edition of the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival

What a Festival!

Montreal, Monday, March 1, 2010 - It’s official! This 11th edition of the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival presented by Hydro-Québec wins the Gold Medal, having picked up the momentum set by last year’s 10th anniversary-and Montrealers celebrated every moment! We witnessed record attendance for all three programs, a 60% increase in on-site sales, twice the shows, and an explosion of support from local fans and media! Yes, the Festival has reached maximum speed, thanks to its public and private sponsors, but mainly due to our incredible fans!

Better yet, after 10 years of growth, our winter event reached maturity in fine fashion, taking over and illuminating the city core: with two free outdoor sites, including the magnificently elaborated Place des Festivals, activities in Complexe Desjardins, our Finest Tables spread throughout the city, the Nuit Blanche enlivening three quartiers and one pôle, the Festival has worked its way into every part of Montreal and the very heart of its citizenry.

Well, that might explain why the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival keeps growing-this year’s incredible array of new additions was a testament to a Festival in constant evolution. With a huge program of concerts, free events and gastronomical outings, fans enjoyed 11 days and nights of beautiful weather and wonderful activities at this 11th edition, confirming the status of the event: we’ve never seen winter look so exciting, so energized, so healthy. It looked like… summer in the snow! Three programs, one Festival, a million hearts full of life and love… in a remarkably “Montreal” event. In fact, this year, Montreal finally discovered the full potential of winter!

The BMO Bank of Montreal Celebration of Light - our free outdoor celebration

More than ever, the Celebration of Light was the place to be for Montreal High Lighters and their guests. This year, thanks to the addition of the Place des Festivals and Espace L’Oréal, the Quartier des spectacles welcomed more fans than ever to a wildly diverse program. Start with the unique Ambiosphère L’Oréal, in the heart of a forest of inflatables and lovely lights, welcoming a phenomenal amount of visitors to its voyage into the universe. A runaway success.

And the party kept going in Old Montreal and the Quays of the Old Port, thanks to family activities and new additions to the program-the Giant Labyrinth, a special guest appearance by the Alouettes and the Grey Cup at the BMO Skating Rink, the Milk Hospitality Tent, the Portuguese Happy Hours, AXA Electro Evenings…-and, above all, the BMO Shows, driving crowds wild with performances by Malajube (opening concert), We are Wolves, Nadja, La patère rose and the uproarious Denis Drolet with their closing Plume Latraverse tribute! Preceded by the BMO Fireworks displays and the Quays of the Old Port Events presented by Hydro-Québec, the concerts were a huge hit with fans. Finally, the Sphère AXA was a massive success, with thousands of Montrealers dancing to music and visuals provided by hot DJs and VJs. One late-arriving guest was a real surprise: a savage windstorm that blew through the site in the wee hours of Friday. But thanks to the involvement of AXA, we transformed the venue into an open-air dancefloor and moved the musical events to the BMO Stage.

The Sun Life Financial Performing Arts - the cultural program

In this 11th edition, the Festival hosted a record number of shows, with over 100 performances-while meeting its ticket budget goal-and offering all the excitement of a full-blown music and arts festival. A number of our homegrown artists shared that thought (Elisapie Isaac, Les Trois Accords, Andrea Lindsay, Martine St-Clair, Yann Perreau…), delivering special projects or premieres at the Festival. In all this excitement, let us mention shows by our honorary co-presidents-the magical Paradis Perdu by Dominic Champagne and Mísia’s magnificent fado, in the opening concert-the standing ovation earned by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Ségin, the tandem of Nagano-Repin and the OSM, the craziness of Psy with 7 doigts de la main, and the torrid new Caliente ! series that heated up our February! With the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club the Brazilian Night with Paulo Ramos, Bïa, Monica Freire, Nico Béki and Peninha, Agnès Jaoui, Calexico, Jorge Martinez, and Portugal’s Maria de Medeiros and Ana Moura (in the closing concert), the series brought us sunshine on a daily basis, a genuine delight in February. No wonder the series has been unanimously voted into next year’s program!

A very special mention goes out to the Leonard Cohen Artworks Exhibition, welcoming over 5,000 visitors to the Galerie Lounge TD in the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan! And this free exhibition continues until May 9!

The SAQ Wine and Dine Experience presented by Air France - the gastronomy and wine program

And who knew that Portugal tasted this good? Well, the secret is out, now that the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS featured country has revealed its rich culinary traditions and uncorked its vintner’s finest wines in the Honorary President’s Dinners hosted by Fausto Airoldi, Vítor Sobral’s Portuguese Convivial, and all our Finest Tables, a runaway success welcoming the largest Festival delegation ever. Our featured country, as well as our featured city and region (New Orleans and the Eastern Townships) brought their delicious and unique flavours and aromas to our plates, to the delight of an ever-growing community of Montreal foodies.

Start with the Festival of Quebec Cheeses in Complexe Desjardins, breaking records with a 35% increase in sales! Next, the salon des vins, in the same venue, showcasing the Great Wines of Portugal. And people kept flocking out to taste Quebec cheeses, notably on Saturday in the Hyatt Regency Montréal, during the first-ever edition of Presenting: Quebec Chefs and Cheeses, which hosted a healthy-and delicious!-contest between talented chefs! What a brilliant concept: 400 guests tasting 16 incredible Quebec cheese-bashed dishes prepared by 4 renowned Montreal chefs. A unique event, the contest showcased the skills of our local chefs and crowned a winner in the young and talented Sophie Ouellet, sous-chef in restaurant DNA, who was awarded a $5000 prize offered by the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec.

But without question, this year’s great surprise was the new Crossroads of Flavour, also in Complexe Desjardins! It was an instant and unforeseen success, presenting a delicious concept-a “village” devoted to the inimitable flavours of our regional products and their creators. A gourmet paradise that not only showcased sublime products-duck smoked meat, anyone?-but also highlighted the great work done by our local producers.

The High Lights Event presented by Hydro-Québec

Let’s set modesty aside-what a MAGNIFICENT evening! Already an impressive success in last year’s 10th edition inaugural presentation, this new urban happening returned in force with a new creation (again conceived by Olivier Dufour) that blew everyone away! With incredible staging, 60 fabulous performers, an impressive multi-level V-shaped stage, a diverse video montage, and brilliant use of music and multimedia, the show was an utterly unique and unbforgettable experience! And the Place des Festivals proved the perfect venue for the event.

The 7th Nuit blanche à Montréal presented by Hydro‑Québec

Bigger than ever, this year’s Nuit blanche featured 181 activities, 122 venues, 6 free shuttle routes thanks to the STM, a newly added zone (Mile-End, connected to the Plateau route) and the arrival of 40 new partners! And what a blast we had! Thanks to gorgeous weather and a full moon, we witnessed what may have been the largest Montreal February crowd ever! Ste. Catherine Street was as packed as it would have been on a summer night! With so much activity, let’s remember to cite the action in the Quartier des spectacles, the collective dancing and visual games on the Place des Festivals, the activities in the Museum of Fine Arts (including the glass-themed exhibitions), the Musée d’art contemporain, welcoming over 17,000 guests, the Belgo (with close to 9,000 visitors), 104 Art souterrain projects spread over 4 km of underground corridors, the craziness that reigned at free shows in Club Soda (Karnival V.2 with Poirier) and Métropolis (the Masked Bal hosted by Bande à part presented by SIRIUS, attended by 12,000).

A growing media presence

The Festival has never enjoyed greater coverage from local media-and from around the world: from the rest of Canada (Canadian Geographic, Ottawa Citizen, Style at Home, Toronto Sun), Brazil (Prazeres de Mesa), Bulgaria (Bulgaria National Radio), China (Xinhua News Agency), the United States (About.com, Austin Monthly, Culinary Concierge, Edge publications, Jezebel Magazine, Maine Sunday Telegram, New Orleans Magazine, The Voice), France (La Croix, Le Monde, Radio France International), Italy (Corriere della Serra), Mexico (Estilos del Universal, Le Fourquet, Traversias) and, of course, Portugal (Expresso, Fugas, Lusa News, Rotas & Destinos, RTP Internacional, TVI, Volta ao Mundo).

Mission accomplished: a balanced budget

This year, the Festival envisions reaching a balanced budget, as hoped for by the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS board of directors (composed of members drawn from the tourism, economic and cultural sectors of Montreal, with Michel Archambault presiding), whose stated goal was to partly resorb the deficit accumulated during the first years of the Festival.

One Festival… and over 300 partners!

We must sincerely thank our loyal partners, without whom an event of this magnitude could never exist: Hydro‑Québec, present since the Festival’s inception, BMO Bank of Montreal, our new partner since last year, L’Oréal, joining us this year, Sun Life Financial, Air France, Milk, the Société des alcools du Québec, AXA, the Great Wines of Portugal. Thanks also to our official partners, the Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc., the Old Montréal Business Development Corporation, T-Fal, Complexe Desjardins, Tourisme Montréal, the Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles and the Hotel Association of Greater Montréal.

We would also like to offer thanks for the continued support of our three levels of government: the Government of Canada, more specifically Industry Canada, Economic Development Canada and Heritage Canada, the Government of Québec through the involvement of the Ministère du Tourisme, the Ministère des Affaires municipales, des Régions et de l’Occupation du territoire, SODEC and the Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine, as well as the Ville de Montréal and the Conseil des arts de Montréal.

In closing, let us offer a special salute to our 300 partners who brought their special magic to this incredibly diverse Festival, and our team including new CEO, Jacinthe Marleau and our special consultant Jean‑François Demers!

2011: special edition - “Ladies First,” thanks to L’Oréal

After all this fun, one might think we’d be ready for a break… but we’re already bubbling with brilliant ideas for next year… when the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival, in partnership with L’Oréal, delivers a 2011 special edition showcasing Women, in a 12th edition celebrating the brilliance of female artists, creators, starred chefs and vintners! We’ll see you then, from Thursday, February 17 to Sunday, February 27, 2011!

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