MONTREAL -- Don't expect any crowdsurfing or dance pits, but festivals are back this summer in Quebec, starting this week -- gradually and slowly.

Starting May 21, red, orange and yellow zones will all be able to host festivals with up to 250 people in outdoor ampitheatres, in assigned seating.

A process of relaxation will follow, ultimately allowing the 2,500-person festivals with no assigned seating that authorities outlined yesterday as they announced the summer reopening plan.

It's good news for audiences and for artists, said the province's minister responsible for culture, Nathalie Roy.

Artists give Quebecers "the joie de vivre in the summer," she said, and they need to reconnect with their audiences.

Don't expect it to feel like normal, she warned -- but all the essential ingredients will still be there.

"We'll have the privilege to be together, with some distance, and to see the artists," she said.

As for masks, right now they're mandatory, even when sitting outdoors at a distance of two metres, Roy said. But over the summer, depending on whether you're in a red, orange, yellow or green zone, and depending on the date and phase of the reopening plan, masks won't always be necessary outdoors.

However, "I think we're used [to it] with the two metres, I think we're used [to it] with the mask-wearing," said Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx.

Not all festivals are music-related, either, noted Proulx. The same rules apply to the "festivals of poutine and festivals of cake," she said.

Something like Montreal's Jazz Festival can lend itself to the new system, with stages set out on different streets with plenty of distance between them.

The Jazz Festival has already announced it will hold its 2021 edition in September.

At that point, it will hopefully be possible have more normal-seeming festivals, with bigger capacities, said the ministers, but that will depend on whether the province reaches its vaccination targets. 


In the preliminary phase, starting May 21, the rules outlined above will also apply to drive-in theatres for up to 400 cars.

Then comes the real beginning of Phase One. As of May 28 or so, the province will allow -- in all regions -- "large performance halls, amphitheatres, indoor stadiums" to host 2,500 people each, if they are separated into sections.

The same applies to outdoor venues that can accommodate pre-assigned seating.

"The audience should be subdivided into independent sections, each with a limit of 250 people and having sanitary facilities as well as independent entry and exit points," the province said.

Audience members, or family bubbles within audiences, will need to stay two metres from other bubbles, except in green and yellow zones, where the distance is 1.5 metres.


There are no changes scheduled for festivalrules for most of June, until the last week of the month. Then, there's a bigger reopening that will set the rules for the rest of the summer.

As of June 25 or so, the 2,500-person limit will still apply, but at outdoor sites the audience won't need to be separated into sections.

They can be standing or seated, and it's up to the festival organizers to ensure there's enough total space per person to ensure it won't be crowded.

While people will be able to move fairly freely around, these sites are also supposed to be broken up into smaller sections within which people will be able to roam. Each section will be meant to hold 250 attendees and will be separated from neighbouring sections by a two-metre empty strip.

People will also need to keep a two-metre distance from others (less in yellow and green zones), or rather, their family "bubbles" will need to maintain distance from other bubbles.

The province plans to help streamline this process by providing some kind of distance-markers to each bubble, but the details weren't immediately clear.

There will be some other unique systems in place, including that organizers must create a staggered exit system so everyone doesn't rush for the doors or exits at the same time.

In one change sure to sound like a perk to many people, food concessions will also be open, but they'll be mobile, going person to person. That's meant to limit how much audience members will be moving around or lining up in close quarters.

Alcohol will also be served at festivals with a licence to do so, but the sales will be cut off at the same time as bars -- likely 11:00 p.m.