Second Rideau Canal Festival kicks off tonight

A clear forecast this weekend means sunny days for Michel Gauthier, president and CEO of the Rideau Canal Festival.

The second annual festival kicks off tonight with Dancin’ on the Rideau, billed as “Ottawa’s first 7,000 metre party.” Each restaurant and club along the canal, from Mexicali Rosa’s and Lago at Dow’s Lake to the University of Ottawa and Bytown downtown, will host a different kind of dancing.

While the official theme of this year’s event is Connecting with Heritage, Gauthier said everything about the festival has another common thread.

“It’s all about having fun,” he said. “How can you get another appreciation for the canal?”

Some of the highlights include a bicycle parade, a heritage village, a canoe rendezvous, a fireworks show and guided tours of heritage gardens.

The festival is also unusual for something other than its theme, said Gauthier.  A major part of the planning and organization is the “aim for zero” – emissions, that is.

“If we’re going to celebrate, we should try and do it with minimal impact on the environment,” said Gauthier, pointing out how many people walk, jog or bike along the canal normally.

Figuring out the festival’s carbon footprint and then offsetting it through carbon credits was difficult to do, he said, since there is no festival model to follow.

“We were able to do it,” he said, and “I think we’re going to do it again.”

A popular feature from last that will be back is the Adopt-a-Metre of the Rideau Canal, which comes with the donor’s name on a Heritage Metre Marker on the canal.

“It’s all about, I love my canal,” said Gauthier.

As part of the heritage theme, visitors will be able to interact with five “builder couples” from different ethnic groups that helped build the canal: the Irish, Natives, Scottish, English and French. The actors will inform people what building the canal was like and how the canal has changed since it was completed in 1832.
Gauthier said he thinks there is something for everybody at the festival, and that everything has a common theme.

“We’re trying to bring everything back to the canal,” he said, “so come and join the fun!”

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