From pigs to garlic, Quebec’s lesser-known festivals offer plenty to celebrate

Tourists from all over the world flock to Quebec every summer for a stacked lineup of festivals that includes Montreal’s jazz gathering and Quebec City’s Festival d’ete.

But beyond the well-known staples, the province’s festival scene also includes a number of offerings that are a little more…unusual.

For those seeking out a new cultural experience, here’s your chance to watch a greased pig race or sing a sea shanty at one of Quebec’s smaller festivals.

Ste-Perpetue Pig Festival, Aug. 3-6

The village of Ste-Perpetue has fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, but it goes whole hog for its Festival du cochon.

The festival is best known for its live pig events, inluding a greased pig race and a wild boar challenge, where participants have to put collars on wild boars and see how many they can put in a barrel.

While the SPCA has criticized the events, the festival insists rules are in place to protect the animals.

“For example, participants can not catch the pig by the ears, paws or tail,” according to the site’s website. “The pig must be lifted upright and placed in a barrel located in the centre of the arena.”

There’s also music, family activities and plenty of pork-based products to sample.


Fete des chants de marins (”Sea Shanty festival”), Aug. 16-20

An hour and a half northeast of Quebec City lies the riverside village of St-Jean-Port-Joli, where shipbuilding and fishing were once a way of life.

Every year, the village honours its maritime heritage with a festival featuring sailors’ traditional work songs and the larger body of music inspired by the sea.

The festival usually features singers from overseas, but this year, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, the event will instead focus on homegrown nautical songs sung in English, French and Inuktitut, according to festival director Thierry Plante-Dube.

The festival also features shows, conferences, lectures, literary activities and a sailing regatta.

Visit for details.

Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Garlic Festival, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fans of garlic say it has great health benefits, crosses cultures and even repels vampires — although maybe that’s just the bad breath.

Nevertheless, thousands of garlic-lovers flock every year to the farmers’ market in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, about 30 minutes west of Montreal, for its annual festival devoted to the pungent, much-loved bulb.

Festival-goers can visit some 25 kiosks manned by local and organic garlic-growers and check out the event’s tastings, culinary demonstrations, workshops and contests, according to organizer Patti Murphy.

“Garlic is a fabulous food, and in Quebec we have our own strands of garlic that do well in this climate,” she said.

Visitors will also be invited to help judge the festival’s first garlic poetry contest, which has been run online by a Concordia University professor who put out calls for the best short poems, words or phrases about garlic.

The prize for winning this “people’s choice award” will be — what else — garlic.

Visit for details.

Big rig drag racing in St-Joseph-de-Beauce, Sept. 1-3

Vacationers looking for fresh air and peace and quiet are probably best to avoid St-Joseph-de-Beauce on Labour Day weekend, where some 20,000 people gather each day to watch massive, diesel-spewing trucks race each down a blocked-off city street.

In in a cloud of exhaust and burning rubber, the rigs careen down the 275-metre course, aiming for glory — or, at least, to make a lot of noise.

Benoit Gagne, the owner of a local excavation company, said he started the family-friendly event 14 years ago as a way to give back to the community. He says it has raised $900,000 for local charities thus far.

He explained the trucks race either loaded or unloaded, or “bobtail,” and are categorized by class.

On Saturday night, there’s also a truck parade, featuring 300 big rigs in all their shining glory.


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