Story by Mark Sissons
OTTAWA, ONTARIO — The new year will mark Canada’s 150th year as a nation. As any proud sesquicentennial would, our country is throwing a year-long party the likes of which haven’t been seen since Expo ’67. As the nation’s capital, Ottawa will be at the epicentre of celebrations designed, in the words of Ottawa 2017 executive director Guy LaFlamme, “to spark our imagination and ignite our future.”
Not surprisingly, Ottawa ranks high on the Vacay.ca Best Places to Visit in Canada for 2017, a curated ranking developed by the publication’s travel journalists. The list, which will be released in early January, represents the destinations that primarily offer significant culturally enriching experiences for travellers during the next 12 months, including new attractions and rare celebrations. Ottawa clearly has the ambition to lead the country for the entirety of 2017.
“We want to recreate the kind of intense emotion and pride that we felt as a nation when [Sidney] Crosby scored that overtime goal in the final game of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics,” explains LaFlamme during a preview presentation of the city’s celebration plans. “And for people to be especially proud of Ottawa.”
Tasked with creating 12 months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences designed to complement national celebrations and annual events and festivals, LaFlamme and his team have come up with some dazzling attractions centred on the themes of innovation and technology. Or, as LaFlamme evocatively expresses it, “of dreaming by being awake.”
Ottawa 2017 Highlights
New Year’s Eve Celebration
Officially kicking off the capital’s year-long celebrations, this early-evening public party will offer family-friendly activities, including the lighting of a spectacular gas-powered cauldron in Marion Dewar Plaza. From the cauldron, students will form a human chain through Ottawa’s downtown core to symbolize youthful optimism.
Built from sea containers — a sustainable, cost-effective and flexible building material that is gaining global popularity — Inspiration Village will be located on York Street in the historic, and often electric, ByWard Market neighbourhood. It will host special exhibits and performing arts events throughout the summer of 2017 showcasing Canada’s provinces and territories.
In what promises to radically redefine the limits of haute cuisine, 22 high flying diners at a time will enjoy a meal suspended 150 feet above Ottawa each day for a week in August 2017. They will be treated to the small-plate creations of Feast+Revel chef Stephen La Salle and his team while enjoying a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Parliament Hill and downtown Ottawa.
A tribute to Canada’s complex history and diversity, this two-day outdoor contemporary music festival will feature Canadian acts, as well as top artists from France, England, Scotland and Ireland, four nations that significantly contributed to the making of Canada. Venue, dates and headliners have yet to be announced.
In the summer, a giant fire-breathing dragon and a monstrous spider from France will invade Ottawa, stalking the streets and battling it out like characters in a sci-fi movie as crowds gather to watch in awe. Designed by La Machine, an innovative entertainment production company based in Nantes, the enormous mechanical monsters will be making their North American debut. Controlled by clusters of operators dressed like characters in the movie, “The Matrix,” and accompanied by a travelling orchestra of local musicians, these huge robots will dominate downtown Ottawa and interact with onlookers from July 26-30, 2017.
Underground Multimedia Experience
A futuristic and immersive multimedia production created by Moment Factory — creators of the Mosaika Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill — will be projected in Ottawa’s Lyon Street light rail station, one of the stops on the city’s new LRT service scheduled to launch in 2018. Running for approximately 10 weeks in the summer, the underground production will transport viewers on a spectacular sound and light fantasy voyage into the future.
Red Bull Crashed Ice
The final leg of the Red Bull Ice Cross Downhill World Championship will take place in Ottawa from March 3-4, 2017. Featuring the extreme sporting event called ice cross downhill, which involves high-speed downhill skating on a track packed with steep turns and high vertical drops, the competition promises to be a thrill ride for athletes and spectators. The final showdown takes place on the locks of the Rideau Canal, overlooking Parliament Hill and the iconic Chateau Laurier.
The Ignite 150 project will support 17 self-proclaimed “epic” stunts, events and gatherings throughout Ottawa in 2017. Confirmed projects include a multi-course dinner prepared by a local chef that will be served on a downtown rooftop, a sunset yoga session on a barge that will float down a waterway accompanied by an orchestra, and a large-scale movie projection, also planned for a downtown rooftop.
Stanley Cup Tribute
In March, Ottawa will host a four-day tribute to professional hockey’s Holy Grail. Celebrations will kick off with an evening gala at the Canadian Museum of History, followed by Governor General David Johnston welcoming the trophy back to Rideau Hall, fan photo ops with the Cup at Lansdowne Park’s Aberdeen Pavilion, and a Stanley Cup 125th anniversary tribute concert at Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.
The year will also offer more iconic moments, with Ottawa set to host the 105th Grey Cup, the Juno Awards, and the Canadian Videogame Awards, among other events.
“Canadians should be excited because you will see Ottawa like never before and you will be able to celebrate Canada’s 150th in the nation’s capital like nowhere else,” says LaFlamme.
Clearly the countdown is on for Canadians to start dreaming by being awake. For more info and event ticket purchases, visit Ottawa 2017’s website.