Montreal lights up for its 375th Birthday

Montrealers love to get outside together, and the lighting of the historic Jacques Cartier bridge brought them out, young and old.

Image Jacquie Kubin

MONTREAL, Canada, May 17, 2017 – Montreal, founded on this day in 1642, ended the day celebrating its 375th anniversary by lighting up the night and the Jacques Cartier Bridge with 365 shades of color.

And if there is one thing Montrealers like to do, it is go outside and celebrate.

Today the people celebrated Montreal, and the French founders who, along with the Indigenous people who inhabited the island l, were honored as part of a full day of events. The theme of today’s events was the diversity of the original people that came together to create Montreal.

“I think it’s a great moment that we are living today because we always put forward the idea of living together,” Mayor Denis Coderre said Wednesday.

“We started with the French, with the Indigenous people. We have our flag that represents the English, the Irish and the Scottish, then all that wonderful diversity that sends a strong message that living together is part of our DNA.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard joined Mayor Coderre at a ceremony paying tribute to the city’s founders, Jeanne Mance and Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve.

Today’s weather was perfect for the celebration. It is the warmest day of 2017 with plenty of sun and warm breezes coming off the St. Lawrence River, it seemed that everyone was there to see the bridge’s inaugural lighting.

Jacques Cartier is a steel truss cantilever bridge that crosses over the Saint Lawrence River connecting the island of Montreal to the south shore of  Longueuil, Quebec with exits to the Île Sainte-Hélène accessing Montreal playgrounds the Parc Jean-Drapeau and La Ronde amusement park.

Saint Helen’s Island and the artificial island Notre Dame Island are where the the Expo 67 World’s Fair was held. The park was renamed in honor of Jean Drapeau, the late mayor of Montreal and initiator of Expo 67.

At a cost of $39.5 million, .

For tonight’s lighting ceremony, 2,800 light fixtures were added to the historic suspension bridge that is 3,425.6 m (11,239 ft) in length. As the crowd watched, offering the occasional ooh and ahh, the lights raced along the cables and supports of the bridge, sometimes zigzagging sometimes dripping down the structure. The dancing lights were accompanied by music conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and featuring the Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra as well as multiple bursts of fireworks to the cheers of the thousand’s of citizens and tourists who packed the riverfront.

“We’ve worked very hard to make it happen tonight,” said Éric Fournier, a partner at Moment Factory, the company behind the project.

The Jacques Cartier Bridge is a steel truss cantilever bridge crossing the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal Island, Montreal, Quebec to the south shore at Longueuil, Quebec, Canada. The bridge crosses Île Sainte-Hélène in the center of the river, where offramps allow access to the Parc Jean-Drapeau and La Ronde amusement park.

The bridge, built in 1930, was originally named the Harbour Bridge, was renamed the Jacques Cartier Bridge to honor the 400th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s first voyage up the St. Lawrence River. It is the third busiest bridge in Canada, the first being Champlain Bridge, upstream of the Jacques Cartier.

While Montrealers were generally in good spirits for celebrating their birthday, enjoying free passage on the metro system, some resident’s are less than thrilled with the high cost to illuminate the bridge. Fournier says believes it will bring Montrealers together and give new life to the bridge connecting the city to Montreal’s South Shore.

“We like to compare it to the Eiffel Tower with the lighting system,” Fournier said in interviews. “It has given it another level of attention and, I think, attraction.”

The bridge will be illuminated every night, with those 365 lights combining to create colors that will reflect the season, the cities mood, and whatever festival or party this city celebrates.

“Using a chromatic system, the bridge will always be different from one day to the other, the whole year,” Fournier told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.

The lighting control system will literally collect data reflecting the mood and heartbeat of the city including weather, traffic and even social media postings, to reflect the city’s mood across the spa.

“The same as a waterfall: when you look at a waterfall, it’s always beautiful, it’s always different,” said Gabriel Pontbriand, a creative director and lighting designer on the project. “Here that was our goal, just to make sure this bridge can be alive.”

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