Dog days at the Carnaval de Québec
Waheeda Harris gets caught up in the spirit of the moment as a dog sled race at Canada’s favourite winter carnival unites fans in a frenzy of good cheer.
When winter hits and temperatures drop in most northern cities it’s time to hibernate, but in Québec City, its time to party. Québec City’s annual Carnaval de Québec is all about outdoor fun – zip-lining, canoe races, ice sculpting, dance parties, toboggan rides and visiting Bonhomme’s palace. La belle ville knows how to kick up her heels.
After dressing in many layers – from head to toe, from thermals to polar fleece to down – I joined the numerous revelers crowding the streets for the right place to view one of this city’s favourite winter events: the annual dog sled race.
When I passed the area where the dogs were being kept before the race, and heard their excited yips and barks, I couldn’t imagine what the cacophony of doggy voices would be when they’re hitched to their sleds and prepared for their run.
As people began to crowd behind the racecourse barricades, I squeezed in among a boisterous group in the shadow of historical Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Most of them were drinking spiked coffee, excited for the race to begin. As the crowds farther up the street started to cheer, I leaned forward with my camera, ready to capture the moment the dogs raced towards us.
The exuberant cheering of the race crowd recalled the spirit of championship hockey games and the deafening sounds of the fans. I got caught up in the revelry and screamed out to the dogs and the drivers as the teams whizzed by me in the qualifying heats.
As the checkered flag swayed above the excited fans, and the dogs bounded across the finish line, the crowds yelled out to the red-cheeked, swaddled drivers, who showed their enthusiasm with high-fives to friends and fist pumps in the air — garnering them more cat-calls and congratulations from the boisterous fans, and even a few barks from canine observers.
I looked around and saw joy and happiness on every face. Despite the dropping temperature, the crowd had become a big happy family, celebrating the winter day with new-found canine heroes.
Carnaval de Québec runs from January 27 to February 12, 2012.