Every year for over a decade now, the St. Michael neighborhood of Montreal comes alive through the art of circus performances. The area awakens to an old yet ever-exciting rhythm of high-flying, acrobatic, magical, colorful, unexpected, and thrilling activities that pay tribute to the circus arts. Yep – it’s the Montreal Circus Festival.
Nearly half a million people travel to Montreal each July to visit the festival. The streets around Rue St. Denis become a temporary home of free and paid shows, demonstrations, exhibitions, workshops, rides, and sporting activities. Renowned troupes from around the globe come together to create a unique kind of a “circus city” that excites and entertains.
The Social Aspect
The festival is also known as TOHU, which comes from an old Quebecois circus saying (“tohu bohu”), and it’s about a lot more than celebrating the circus arts. It is also about boosting the local economy and reconnecting with local communities. The area where the festival takes place has the highest unemployment rate of all of Montreal with more than 12 percent, while the rest of the city sits at 5.5 percent. Each year, the organizers give away 400 free tickets to locals, as well as discounts for residents of the area. According to the executive and programming director of the festival, Stéphane Lavoie, the goal is to “build a community circus, not to only sell a circus ticket.” Judging by the great social impact TOHU enjoys, they are on the right track with reaching their goal.
Montreal Circus Festival — Details for Visitors
The year 2020 will mark the 11th edition of the festival, which will take place between July 2nd and July 12th. Fortunately for many of the visitors and local residents, there are many free shows and events, and you can buy various ticket passes depending on what you want to see. For example, single performance tickets can cost around 29 CAD ($22 US) and up, while three-show passes start at 90 CAD ($68.50 US).