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Countdown to 2007: Will Fireworks Fly?

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This time of year, Montreal is one big psychedelic light show.

It's the nature of L'International des Feux Loto-Quebec presented by TELUS, otherwise known as the Montreal International Fireworks Competition. Think of it as the Olympics or the World Cup of pyrotechnics. Nine countries — Switzerland, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, Portugal, Canada, France, Australia and the United States — compete for "Jupiter" trophies: the gold, the silver and the bronze.

The nonprofit Richmond Region 2007 wants to replicate the event in Richmond next year in tandem with the 400th anniversary of the settlement at Jamestown.

One snag is the $1.5 million in sponsorship money needed to put it on, says Wilson H. Flohr, the nonprofit's president and chief executive officer. So far, no one has stepped up to buy naming rights to the competition.

Still, on the eve of Independence Day and in the spirit of its borrowed slogan, "Give me liberty!" the group holds out hope that fireworks could rain over Belle Isle next summer on 10 consecutive Saturday nights after July 4 through Labor Day. The "International Fireworks Salute," as it is being called, is listed as one of four local "signature" events on the 2007 activity calendar, which is still in development.

Meanwhile, Montreal is an ephemeral explosion.

Twice a week, beginning at 10 p.m., a different country puts on a 30-minute pyrotechnic show of lights and music at the theme park La Ronde, which was built for the World Expo in 1967, says Jean Quintin, director of marketing and events for the venue. The bedazzlement takes place over the park's Dolphin Lake while dignitaries and state consulates wave from boats.

More than 3 million people are expected in Montreal for the 22nd annual event that began June 17 and runs to July 29. It's a free event, but anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 people pay $40 to $50 for a bleacher seat in La Ronde's amphitheatre, Quintin says. Nearly 100,000 people line two banks while 75,000 pack the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Quintin says, which is closed to traffic for the event.

"You're sitting there, and you see the Montreal skyline and how all the people and lights and music come together and are amplified by the lake," Quintin says — "and it's just so magnificent, like no fireworks you've ever seen."

Quintin hasn't heard of the effort under way in Richmond. It's a complex enterprise that takes 365 days a year to plan, he advises, and is "also very dangerous." But, he says, "if someone wants to organize something like this there, maybe we could help them." S



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