The surprised face of the judges

In Montreal, the journalist Louis-Philippe Messier is mainly on the run, with his office in his backpack, looking for fascinating topics and people. He speaks to everyone and is interested in all areas of life in this city chronicle.

Contrary to what one might think, the 19 judges at Grands Feux Loto-Québec aren’t pyrotechnicians or outstanding specialists: they’re just ordinary people who have competed for the role.

I met them as they soiled their feet in the mud near firing ramps littered with hundreds of mortars.

This dangerous area between Lac des Dauphins and the river is closed to the public. The judges strolled there to better understand the terrain of the pyrotechnicians whose work they will be judging.

A face very different from the preconceived notion I had of the pyrotechnic judge caught my attention.

“Proud Parents”

“I grew up with the fires of La Ronde and it was clear that I would apply to be a judge from the age of 18,” said Aisha Khatun, 19, the youngest of the 2022 jury.

“My parents are proud. My grandmother in Bangladesh has never seen fireworks and she is impressed that I am a judge! “, adds the humanities student of Cégep d’Ahuntsic.

“I’m in my second term and my girlfriend was a judge in other years, so I’m starting to know that,” says Patrick St-Pierre, 38, from Saint-Hubert, a software engineer for the National Bank.

Sabrina Fleurent and François Forget, substitute judges.

Photo Louis Philippe Messier

Sabrina Fleurent and François Forget, substitute judges.

“We’re a substitute judge for someone who gets sick or can’t attend one of the evenings,” explains Sabrina Fleurent, 30, a daycare worker at Delson, Montérégie.

A judge must attend all performances, and if he misses one, he is disqualified…and a substitute judge’s scores replace his own.

“If a woman needs to be replaced, it’s Sabrina, but if it’s a man, it’s me,” said François Forget, 60, a warehouse worker from Saint-Eustache.

what the judge decides

Why not a panel of experts instead of going to so much trouble to educate ordinary people from A to Z?

“We want members of the public to judge, since the lights are made for the public,” explains Martyne Gagnon, the person in charge of the lights at La Ronde.

It’s volunteer work, of course with a parking lot and the best possible seats in the grandstand, just below the control room where the foreign explosives technicians operate.

Fires Technical Director Paul Csukassy explains the launch site to the judges.

Photo Louis Philippe Messier

Fires Technical Director Paul Csukassy explains the launch site to the judges.

During my visit, the judges spent all day attending classes.

You will learn five criteria: the quality of the pyrotechnics (the richness or poverty of their colors), their synchronization, the soundtrack, the harmonization of the explosions with the soundtrack and the sustained quality of the show throughout its duration.

“It’s a trap to be impressed by a stunning grand finale, the show has to be consistently good for half an hour, not just at the end!” ” explains Denis Lono, former judge who oversees new judges.

Along with another former judge, Lynda Normand, Mr. Lono spends more than a hundred hours selecting and training judges… entirely on a voluntary basis.

“The fires changed my life and I haven’t missed more than five since 1985,” says Lono.

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