Because its agreement with the City of Laval is ending and it could not be extended, the Illumi team announced with “sadness” on Thursday that the current edition, which ends on January 7, will be the last. Another installation will be developed in California, but the team does not lose hope of maintaining the Illumi course in Quebec.

“I find it sad, and a little surprising,” Cavalia founder and Illumi creator Normand Latourelle told La Presse about the impossibility of extending the agreement in Laval. It’s a popular event, and it costs nothing in Laval to be there. »

Since its first edition in 2019, Illumi has attracted no less than 2 million visitors to its nighttime journey punctuated by paintings illuminated by millions of LED bulbs. The flagship event generates direct economic benefits of around 10 million per year, indicates Normand Latourelle, based on the assessment by the firm KPMG. “We don’t understand,” he sums up.

The land where Illumi is installed, located along Highway 15, belongs to the City of Laval, and the agreement ends in September 2024. The City of Laval wishes to install Carré Laval there, “an innovation district mixed” including a park, a body of water and real estate projects. “As early as 2019, it was agreed that the city would regain use and full access to the land in 2024,” indicates Jonathan Lévesque, public affairs advisor to the City of Laval, by email.

Normand Latourelle agrees that it was clear from the beginning that the land would one day be developed, but he believed he could still hold a few more editions of Illumi there. A year and a half ago, he said, the mayor of Laval, Stéphane Boyer, agreed to extend the agreement for two years. It was only recently that Mr. Latourelle learned that Illumi had to leave at the end of the contract, and that even a six-month extension (to allow the event to be held next winter) was not possible.

In the fall of 2024, the City of Laval wants to conduct “geotechnical analyses” on the ground – preparatory work as part of the first phase of the project. “The nature of these studies is incompatible with occupation or activities on the site,” indicates Jonathan Lévesque. This work, he explains, is financed in particular by the government of Quebec, and the timetable for carrying it out is tied to the end of the agreement. The Carré Laval project, announced in 2020, “is the cornerstone of a sustainable transformation of the territory”, and its prospects for development and economic benefits are “major”, he assures.

Normand Latourelle believes that it would have been possible to carry out these assessments (“earth cores”) while maintaining Illumi for one last cold season, next year. “I can guarantee you anything that the land will not be developed before the next 5 or 10 years,” he says. He does not hide that, financially, this departure is also a hard blow, the company having invested a lot to maintain Illumi during the pandemic.

At the same time, Cavalia announced Thursday that it had signed a contract for Illumi in Los Angeles, California, at the invitation of a company. This will be a brand new facility, and details will be announced after the holiday season.

“Our life will not end there,” says Normand Latourelle. We get invited everywhere. Just yesterday, I received an invitation from Brazil, I came from Belgium, we are having discussions for France, the Middle East… What is sad is that I grew up in Laval. And one day, I decided that I was going to do a little for the city where I grew up,” continues the creator, who first brought the Cavalia equestrian show to Laval, then Illumi.

Why not move the permanent installation in Laval elsewhere in Quebec, such as in Terrebonne, where an Illumi Symphonie des fleurs show took place this summer? “We weren’t invited, it’s as simple as that,” replies Normand Latourelle, who emphasizes having also looked towards Montreal. “If ever a municipality is interested in supporting us…”

By September, the installations will therefore have to be dismantled, stored, and (who knows) reassembled elsewhere, and all of this has a cost. “If someone says to me: tomorrow morning, come to our city, we have three, four million for you, we will look at it seriously,” concludes Normand Latourelle.