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Mission and history


Our Mission

«To reinvent a family-friendly festival offering experiences of interactive discovery and spectacles, whose distinctive product is the hot air balloon.»




It all started in 1984 when the Chamber of Commerce, the Office du Tourisme and the Conseil Economique du Haut-Richelieu were looking for a way to promote tourism and develop the region’s economy during the summer season.

This is when Bob Burch and Dave McLeod, two Hot Air Balloon enthusiasts living in Montreal, had the idea to propose a Hot Air Balloon festival. Both had noticed that the region’s geographic situation and climate conditions made it an exceptional area with ideal conditions for balloonists to enjoy their sport.

In 1984, the first edition of the Festival de montgolfières du Haut-Richelieu was a success. During the four-day festivities from August 20 to 26, 20 balloons and 60,000 visitors officially launched this great balloon gathering.


The next year, in 1985, the Festival acquired a permanent structure. The event was there to last! In 1987, the Municipal Council of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu officially proclaimed their city “Hot Air Balloon Capital”. Throughout the years, the Festival welcomed many balloon competitions, including the North American Championship, several Canadian championships, and the 10th Hot Air Balloon World Championships, which was presented in Canada for the first time in 1991. The world’s 100 best balloonists came from 30 countries to take part in this international event.


In 1992, the event changed its name to the Festival de montgolfières de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The Festival Corporation was set up and a brand new team was brought in. It is that year that the Festival also became a more family-oriented event. In 1993, the Festival started presenting major shows every evening on a main stage. That same year, the Festival’s Honorary Chairman was Timothy C. Forbes, President of American Heritage Publishing, President and Chief Operating Officer of financial magazine Forbes, and a great balloon enthusiast. Mr. Forbes was onsite for the opening ceremonies of that 10th edition of the Festival.


In 1998, the Festival welcomed its two millionth visitor! That same year, the first emblem balloon of the Festival was born. The creation of internationally renowned poster artist Vittorio, the winged blue balloon with the wide smile was to become the Festival’s brand image throughout the world.


In 2001, the Festival celebrated its 18th anniversary. By then, the international notoriety of the Festival was strongly established. The blue Festival balloon had been seen in many countries, attracting a host of foreign balloonists to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. To better reflect this international dimension, the Festival changed its name again, this time to the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.


In 2004, the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu adopted a new image, its use of warm colours a salute to the “fire blowing” balloons. The sun, the moon and the stars were also brought together to form a joyous and festive logo. In 2005, eight balloons inspired by the forms and colours of this new logo newly graced the sky of the Festival.


En 2005, on pouvait admirer dans le ciel du Festival huit nouvelles montgolfières reprenant les formes et les couleurs de ce nouveau visuel.


In 2008, the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu celebrated 25 years of fun and colours. The next year, in 2009, the event would have its very best edition ever, with a record-breaking 400,000 visitors. In addition, a wave of exceptional good weather was to allow that year’s 115 participating balloons to cover the sky of the Haut-Richelieu 13 times, with 9 consecutive flights, another record,

It is also in 2009 that the public discovered the first ever Planète Ballon. With 500,000 square feet, this is the world’s largest inflatable theme park. A brand new interactive balloon interpretation center was also inaugurated that year.


In March 2010, the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu won the first prize in its category in the 25th edition of the Grands Prix du tourisme de la Montérégie, a prestigious annual award recognizing excellence and innovation in the tourism industry.

In May 2010 at the Palais des Congrès, the International Balloon Festival of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu won the national gold prize of the Grands Prix du tourisme québécois in the “Festivals and tourist events” category. Proud of this national recognition price, the International Balloon Festival team insists to thank all the associates, volunteers, partners and its faithful public who contribute to the success of the Greatest family event in Canada, day and night !

Back in 1984, a brilliant idea gave birth to what is today the largest gathering of Hot Air Balloons in Canada. Since then, each year in August, the sky over Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu blooms with colourful balloons, for the greatest pleasure of residents and attracting people from all over the world.

In 2010, there have been more than 400,000 visitors who have crossed the turnstiles at the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, presented by the Laurentian Bank in collaboration with Loto-Quebec. As for the rides and entertainment, the success of new 2010 activities like The Beast, the Fluorescent Dome and the Balloon Experience, reinforced the International Balloon Festival’s reputation as the Greatest family event in Canada, day and night ! The energy coming from Balloon Planet : The Conquest, the world’s largest inflatable theme park, displays the ideology and ambition of the organization to adapt the magic of the Balloon flights onto the site of its event, day and night.


In 2011, the International Balloon Festival broke all previous attendance records making it the festival’s best year yet. Close to 500,000 visitors, 487,869 to be precise, graced the festival’s grounds at the 28th edition of the festival, from August 13th to August 21st. Favorable weather conditions, during Canada’s largest balloon gathering event, led to twelve colourful flights of more than 125 balloons in the Haut-Richelieu skyline.


The spectacular and new Night Suns show featuring hot-air balloons literally blew the minds of the International Balloon Festival’s 29th edition’s festivalgoers. The performance, mixing elements of fire, dance, music and pyrotechnics drew spectators to an immersive experience in which hot-air balloons and man’s desire to fly are pivotal. From August 11th to August 19th, hot-air balloons filled the sky of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu eleven times. An elephant, an astronaut, a butterfly and many other flamboyant special forms were seen flowing over festivalgoers’ heads, offering a breathtaking spectacle. On the Loto-Québec stage, exalting performances by Star Académie, Mika, Simple Plan, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Wanted, Messmer, Philippe Bond, B.o.B and T-Pain were also served daily!


In 2013, after 30 years of high altitude fun, the International Balloon Festival suited up for its anniversary and unveiled a flamboyant schedule sure to please all. Artists such as Charles Aznavour, Éric Lapointe, Marjo, Les Cowboys Fringants, Owl City, Taio Cruz, Stéphane Rousseau and Roger Hodgson, founding member of Supertramp, graced the Loto-Québec stage. A total of ten hot-air balloon flights in nine days were registered. Under the colorful skyline of 125 hot-air balloons, some hundreds of thousands of visitors made their way to the International’s site and admired the Night Glow, Les Nuits Magiques, une Expérience Banque Laurentienne. Once again, the International Balloon Festival succeeded at mesmerizing the inner child in all of us, at one time and in one place. 


It’s in 2015 that the bright and energetic Anouk Meunier becomes our spokesperson. Difficult to imagine someone else to represent the Festival! With her cheerfulness, sense of humor, kindness and her warm and colorful personality, Anouk incarnates the spirit of the Festival and she knows how to reach the festival-goers! It’s not uncommon to see her walking around the site, watching the hot air balloons or dancing in front of the main stage!


The International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu will celebrate its 35th anniversary!