Festival Western de St-Tite
The city of Montreal has had lots of time to plan its 375th birthday celebrations this year — it’s not like it was a surprise — so how did they manage to do such a lousy job of it? Idea after idea has been dropped, rejected, botched or ridiculed until it seems all we’re left with are some TV commercials, a $40-million disco bridge and a rodeo in a town where the only people you see wearing chaps are usually dancing on a pole.
A rodeo? Yup. Montreal is going to host the NomadFest Urban Rodeo in late August, organized by the Festival Western de St-Tite (the patron saint of pole dancers). Not the best choice of event for a mayor who has had trouble keeping his feet in the stirrups as he alienated the SPCA and plenty of animal lovers over his pitbull ban, indoor cat licence scam and his flip-flop over ending the city’s archaic horse-drawn carriage trade.
Cowboys are about as Montréal as mesquite, after all, and the only bull you’re likely to come across will be coming straight from city hall.
Cowboys aren’t even part of St-Tite heritage, to tell you the truth. The village of 4,000 — about 60 kilometres north of Trois-Rivières — was actually a crossroads for lumberjacks. But when Quebec bootmaker G.A. Boulet came up with the rodeo idea in 1967 to help boost the town’s leather industry, bucherons made way for bucking broncos and bluesy ballads in the town’s heart, if not on its crest. Like its larger cousin in Calgary, however, the local rodéo has come under harsh criticism for traumatizing animals for entertainment in events that include steer-wrestling, bull-fighting, calf-roping, barrel racing and greased pig chases. Getting the contract for a Montreal rodeo was a huge boon for organizers, giving them a major promotional boost in the big city just weeks before the St-Tite rodeo’s own 50th anniversary celebrations. But it’s also attracting the bad kind of publicity, with animal rights activists up in arms over the idea and gearing up to picket the proceedings.
Will we add the rodeo to the list of scrapped projects that include remodelling Place Jacques-Cartier’s resto terrasses, turning Île Ste-Hélène into a funeral Mecca, a police and firefighter games, and two lighting contracts for smaller bridges over the Lachine Canal that became mired in corruption scandals? Will plans to erect granite tree stumps on Mount Royal at a cost of $3.4-million go ahead despite widespread derision?
Hundreds of other smaller activities will go ahead, mostly cultural, recreational and artistic events that could just as easily have marked the city’s 374th birthday or its much anticipated 376th, also known as the Festival of Things We Couldn’t Get Done on Time. Padding the list are annual events like the Fête des Neiges, Igloofest and Pride celebrations.
If you want details, check out the city’s woodenly translated guide to the 375th here. Meanwhile, we’ve got some last-minute suggestions for events we can add to the celebrations that are a bit more Montreal than chasing greased pigs.
The Montreal Obstacle Race. Contestants start out at home every morning and must navigate a complex array of detours, lane closures, bridge closures, “itinéraires facultatifs” and traffic jams to make it to the finish line. To ensure Montrealers don’t have an advantage over visitors, the obstacles will change daily so that no one can plan their route in advance. Winners will receive a lifetime supply of Xanax and a trophy in the shape of an orange cone.
Cat Rodeo. Starting this year, city inspectors are now responsible for ensuring that cats don’t wander off their companion human’s property. Fun for the entire family, watch as the inspectors chase their feline prey under fences and up trees.
Telephone tap dance. Watch as Montreal police listen in on the conversations of journalists and their sources in an effort to combat the city’s most debilitating crime wave: other cops telling reporters what the cops are up to.
Pothole golf. This used to be a seasonal event but has expanded in scope and duration over the years. The distance between potholes can change in seconds and the city has lifted limits on hole size, so that some are now big enough to accommodate entire backhoes. The object is to get from point A to point B without losing an axle or ruining your bridge-work when your teeth smash together. Mulligans are encouraged, as in “let’s just park and go get drunk at Mulligan’s.”
Poutine-denial days. The entire population plays dumb whenever a tourist asks where they can get some. Each time a metro line is shut down, it will signal Montrealers to engage in mass denial. “What? Gravy and cheese curds? That’s crazy! Who’d ruin a good french fry that way? Next you’ll be telling me they put maple syrup, pulled pork and guacamole on it! Somebody’s pulling your leg.”
Où est Waldo? Visitors will be invited to study construction and city work sites and attempt to identify which of the people standing around are workers and which are supervisors.
Language tag. Nowhere else but in Montreal can negotiating which language to use be so much fun. If you speak passable French with either an obvious accent or frequently confused noun genders, your interlocutor will immediately switch to English as a way to simultaneously welcome you and indicate you’ll never be good enough. As former Parti Québécois leader Pierre Karl Péladeau would say: “En français, s’il vous plaît. But not if you pronounce cou like queue.” Francophones, meanwhile, will be greeted with the traditional “bonjour-hi,” the universal signal that any efforts to speak French should end after two syllables. Best of all is the now common “Two Anglos Talking in Bad French to Each Other and Neither Realizes the Other Is Actually English.” Hilarity ensues as one complains of a crick in her cock while the other takes off his jacket and announces “je suis chaud.”
Feel free to add your own suggestions via Cult MTL‘s Facebook or Twitter accounts. As we’ve seen, the city seems ready to adopt even the craziest ideas in a mad rush to celebrate the “discovery” 375 years ago of a village that the St. Lawrence Iroquoian population had settled a measly 8,000 years earlier.
You could ask the descendents of the true founding peoples for ideas, but unfortunately they had mostly disappeared by the time we celebrated Montreal’s 25th. ■