In 2017, Canada proudly celebrates 150 years as a nation, and its capital city of Ottawa will lead the way as it transforms itself and hosts not one, but multiple signature events and countless smaller community celebrations, all year long. Ottawa 2017 is going to be a big, bold, immersive and moving experience not to be missed.
Ottawa 2017 will feature twelve months of spectacular programming, including fifteen new blockbuster events and countless special Canada 150 activities in addition to recurring festivals, events, art series, and culture and heritage initiatives. The Ottawa 2017 Bureau, the not-for-profit organization in charge of planning and promoting these events, wanted to find the right balance between rural and urban programming to offer both large scale blockbuster events and community grassroots activities.
The goal of Ottawa 2017 is to position Ottawa as the hub of all celebrations for Canada’s 150th Anniversary of Confederation. “It’s an opportunity to re-position or refresh the image people have of Ottawa,” says Guy Laflamme, executive director of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau. “Overall, we want to inspire young generations. More than celebrating our past and educating people about our history, our focus is for Ottawa 2017 to spark the imagination and ignite our future.”
The Ottawa 2017 Bureau has developed a program where it will at times act as producer, co-producer, facilitator or promoter, with everything entirely complementing what the Canadian federal government has planned.
In July 2016, marking the countdown of 150 days until Canada 150, an amateur parachutist with hundreds of helium-inflated balloons was sent up into the sky. “They were 150 feet above ground,” says Laflamme. “It reflected the youthful, unique, and innovative nature of our stunts. This is not traditional stuff.”
The artistic vision of the Ottawa 2017 program is its DNA. “Our program will offer larger than life experiences. It will be big, bold, dramatic, spectacular, provocative, and artistic,” he says. “We want to build on the ephemeral nature of our events by offering unique, brief experiences to amplify the magic. You will be able to tell your grandchild: ‘Yes, I was a part of it. I experienced it first-hand.’ So, you can’t afford not to be present.”
Ottawa 2017 will transform public places with its innovative program offerings in non-traditional venues. It will also connect, by creating meeting places all throughout Ottawa. “We want to immerse people, stimulating all senses with our experiences,” explains Laflamme. “And we want to move people with a program rich in content, that represents our values, and who we are as a people.”
To kick off Canada 150, Ottawa 2017 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Centennial Flame located on Parliament Hill, which was first lit on December 31st, 1966 on the eve of Canada’s centennial year. There was a cauldron installed at Ottawa City Hall, about 800 meters from Parliament Hill. It featured a spectacular flame and a one-kilometre human chain in which each person held a torch, leading to Parliament Hill, where a massive New Year’s Eve show then featured musical pyrotechnics and an outdoor performance by top Canadian talent.
The following are but some of the Ottawa 2017 planned events and activities:
Ottawa Welcomes the World will celebrate Canadian diversity. “It’s a showcase that will take place at the Aberdeen Pavilion, located in Lansdowne Park and will feature all embassies in Ottawa,” says Laflamme. “Originally, we hoped for twenty-five embassies, but we now have sixty-six countries involved and forty-five different events spread out over the year. Each country will showcase its culture through music, dance, cinema, foods, and traditional beverages.”
As founding nations of Canada, Great Britain and France wanted to do something unique. So, they decided to bring in world-renowned photographer Rip Hopkins to take 150 photos over the course of the year, to illustrate how French and British roots are reflected in Canadian’s day-to-day lives. “There will be a photo exhibit and a weekend where we will project some of the best images on buildings across the city,” adds Laflamme.
Ignite 150 will feature a series of seventeen stunts spread out over the year. Examples of the type of stunts to expect: 4D movies shown on rooftops; yoga sessions on a barge, on the Ottawa River; an enlightenment ship that will create a magical canopy of lights in the park; and the sky lounge, a spectacular dining experience, 150 feet above ground that will be offered in the vicinity of Ottawa City Hall with a view of Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal.
Agri 150 is a program that will feature twenty to twenty-five experiences in rural Ottawa which will include performing arts events and the opportunity for people to taste and discover local produce grown in rural Ottawa.
In March, Ottawa will host the grand finale of the 2016 to 2017 Red Bull® Crashed Ice, and the Stanley Cup turns 125 years old. “We will revisit the 1920s tradition of an old toboggan slide that used to be next to Chateau Laurier,” explains Laflamme. “There will be an adrenaline rush experienced as competitors from the Red Bull® Crashed Ice use a corridor of artificial ice, starting on the lower terrace of Chateau Laurier and plunging next to the Rideau Canal, skating at speeds of up to seventy-five kilometres per hour.”
And in honour of the Stanley Cup, there will be a full four days of celebrations. Governor General Lord Stanley first gave the cup to what was to become the NHL at a hotel in downtown Ottawa. So, there will be opportunities for people to get their picture taken with the cup as well as with hockey legends.
“There will also be a big concert at the Canadian Tire Centre – home of the Ottawa Senators, featuring musicians, hockey legends and video excerpts highlighting historical moments of the Stanley Cup,” says Laflamme. “There will also be a major gathering of two thousand aboriginal youth of Mathis, Inuit, and First Nations from across Canada. And Ottawa will host the Juno Awards – Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys.”
The Inspiration Village will be an installation made up of artistically modified shipping containers on York Street. “Using those as stages, we will have performances by dancers, musicians (from all provinces and territories), and possibly fashion shows,” explains Laflamme.
There will be full summer of activities from May to September, one of which will be an underground multi-media experience. “Ottawa is presently excavating a 2.5-kilometre tunnel underneath the downtown core, and we are going to transform one station into an unbelievable immersive experience where people will walk through the entire 350 meters of the station to experience cutting-edge Canadian technology,” explains Laflamme. “We’re going to tell people that as we were excavating the tunnel, we hit a glitch; we hit a fault that gave access to the future. It will be offered from the end of June to mid-September, and it’s going to be the first of its kind in the world.”
There will also be a gigantic concert at Lansdowne Park called YOWttawa featuring top Canadian aboriginal and international talent. “YOW is the identifier of the Ottawa airport,” explains Laflamme. “We wanted a title that would reflect our city. This is going to be a very hip, very cool production.”
Canada Day will be bigger than ever. Given that it is estimated that the number of visitors to Ottawa will inevitably surpass available accommodations within the city, it was announced that temporary camping would be allowed outside designated community centers and sporting facilities managed by the City of Ottawa. “This will create an additional thousand spots for camping in the five days surrounding July first,” says Laflamme.
“There will be a spectacular picnic on Alexandra Bridge. The bridge will be covered with sod, with a spectacular view of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River. People were invited to purchase an eighteen by eighteen feet square for one of the four seatings to take place throughout the day of July second.” Tickets for this particular event have sold out.
‘La machine,’ a company from Nantes, France, will bring a giant mechanical dragon and spider to Ottawa for a four-day period at the end of July. This will be a first in North America. And there will be a gourmet dinner on Wellington Street, in front of Parliament Hill for one thousand people gathered at one stretch of a table and served by twenty of the top chefs from across Canada. This will launch a full week of Canadian food celebration across the city.
“We’re also hosting the Canadian Video Game Awards,” says Laflamme. “We will do a full week of video game happenings with video game projections on many buildings. We’re also hoping to secure the Grey Cup – the championship game of the Canadian Football League. The NFL heritage classic’s very first game was held in Ottawa in 1917, so we’re working hard to bring that game to the nation’s capital in 2017.”
A substantial amount of money has been invested through various groups to foster new projects and grassroots community activities for Ottawa 2017. “There will be partnerships with all universities and colleges, as well as social quality of life initiatives, from community gardens to planting 150 maple trees in each ward,” he adds.
There’s no denying that there will be lots of impressive happenings in Ottawa this year. “Ottawa 2017 will leave you with an intense level of pride towards Ottawa – towards Canada –and it will encourage other Canadian communities to celebrate the good fortune we have to be able to live in this country,” says Laflamme. “2017 is going to be a pretty awesome year in Ottawa!”