Montreal 375: Is the party worth the price tag?
Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 12:25PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 19, 2017 10:39AM EDT
As Montrealers and tourists mark the biggest bash of the city’s 375th anniversary, some are considering whether the party is worth the price tag.
Though there were people celebrating along with dignitaries like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Philippe Couillard at morning events, the events appeared to be as crowded as one would expect on a typical beautiful day in Old Montreal.
"I have to be here because I'm part of the story," said Alain Demers. "My ancestors lived in the part of Ville Marie."
Among the tourists was a French professor from the University of Mobile, in Alabama, who called it a unique opportunity for her and her students.
"We've been studying all about the history of Quebec so it's just magnificent to be here and to see the mayor of Montreal, and to see the Premier of Quebec, and the Prime Minister of Canada, this is just an amazing event for my students and we'll never forget this," said Barbara Brousseau.
The party kicks off in earnest, however, Wednesday night with an illumination ceremony of the lights on the Jacques-Cariter Bridge and thousands are expected to turn out for the event.
A 'Bonne Fete Montreal' concert is also planned at the Bell Centre Wednesday night with the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, the McGarrigles and Robert Charlebois.
The lighting ceremony is one of 42 legacy projects and hundreds of events planned to mark the anniversary at a reported price tag of $1 billion.
Tourism Montreal estimates the investment will pay off with 10.7 million visitors to the city this year, the most since Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976.
"In the last 50 years. This year, in the last three years, there are 300 percent more articles on Montreal, and htis is all free press for us," said Yves Lalumiere, president of Tourism Montreal.
Several groups are marking the festivities Wednesday with protests, many in front of city hall. The Montreal police brotherhood is expected to demonstrate over pension negoiations in the afternoon.
Housing activists protested Wednesday, arguing that while all this money is being spent on festivities, one third of Montrealers live in apartments that have issues, and many are in need of social housing.
“Everyone’s allowed to demonstrate, but people have to respect the rules,” said Mayor Denis Coderre at a morning ceremony.