CirqueCon: The Unofficial Gatherings of Cirque du Soleil Passionates



Friday, April 22, 2005 to Sunday, April 24, 2005
Marriott SpringHill Suites Vieux-Montréal
Montréal, Québec, Canada

And so the journey continues. Or begins anew.
We heed the call, that whisper on the wind. Louder this time, reaching farther.
So again we gather. Together.
Old friends. New friends. Faces never before seen, yet souls familiar.
Again we bond with fellow Passionates.
Bearing witness to that which is newly created, still forming, unexplored.
Wrapping ourselves in its warmth. Together.
And the creators welcome us. Inviting us to peek behind their mask.
What mysteries will be revealed?
We come from far away. But we know where we are.
We are home.

Our group dinner at CirqueCon 2004: Vancouver, André Belanger, Internet Marketing Manager for Cirque du Soleil in Montréal, (who had made the trip from Cirque International Headquarters to be with us that weekend) made the very vocal suggestion that the following year we should gather again for the premiere of the newest Cirque traveling show - in Montréal! With such an open invitation, who were we to say no?

But it came with many new challenges. With expanded publicity efforts and a longer lead time, the exponential increase in attendance we expected was daunting. Finding the right facility and a nice place to have a group meal, in a city we weren't intimately familiar with, took time. But in the end we think we came up with solutions that satisfied nearly all.

Our numbers for Montréal were impressive, considering our first year we had around 30 people:

  • 130 members total,
  • 60 purchased our Standard membership, representing 90 people,
  • 66 purchased tickets through us,
  • 43 purchased tickets elsewhere, for a total of
  • 109 total tickets purchased,
  • 42 rooms rented at the Marriott SpringHill Suites, 144 room nights total.

Our members came from more than half of the United States, all the Canadian provinces that touch the US except Manitoba (what's with them Manitobans, anyway?), three locations in Mexico, as well as Australia and Germany. WOW!

Our website, set up by Ricky Russo, explained the basics:

  • WHAT! - CirqueCon - The Unofficial Gatherings of Cirque du Soleil Passionates, is exactly what it says - a fan-organized gathering of like-minded Cirque du Soleil fans. For the second time we'll be gathering for a 3-day weekend in a city where a Cirque show is playing, to see the show and meet with other fans.
  • WHY! - To see the new touring show, called “Cirque du Soleil 2005” (later called “Corteo”) in Cirque's home town of Montreal, during its World Premiere Weekend! Also to see the sights of this wonderful city and meet with other Cirque fans.
  • WHERE! - Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  • WHEN! - Friday, April 22, 2005 through Sunday, April 24, 2005. Our “official” show will be the 8pm show on Saturday, April 23, 2005.
  • WHO! - Any Cirque fan that wants to come!

THE BEGINNING OF MEMBERSHIPS - Our attendees in Vancouver enjoyed the packets of stuff they received (Program Book, CD's, Badge, etc.). We had a lot of fun doing the planning, research and producing the items, but the costs were borne solely by the organizing committee.

We wanted to continue some of those “traditions.” In talking with our attendees afterward, we found there were some that felt the “extras” (especially research) weren't what they needed or wanted from us. Others suggested it might be fairer to spread the financial burden amongst members who are the beneficiaries of our efforts, while keeping a close eye on costs. So we created a two-tier “membership” structure we felt would please both groups.

Standard Membership - For our “Full Meal Deal” we asked for a nominal “Membership Fee” of $10.00 per member/address to help us cover planning, research expenses and “extras.” That $10.00 “bought” basically what folks got for Vancouver:

  • One program packet per membership.
  • Planning and help with our headquarters hotel.
  • Periodic emails and status reports.
  • Help with attractions & sightseeing, questions, and research.

For those that needed only the smallest amount of help we also offered free Basic Membership, which was absolutely free. Everyone who contacted us was automatically put on our mailing list and given a free Basic Membership. We advised them of any plans Cirque had for us, and that was it! As it turned out, the vast majority (85%) of attendees and their “households” became paid Standard members.

SPECIAL TICKET OFFER - Cirque du Soleil graciously offered an exclusive block of tickets for our “official” show at 8pm on Saturday, April 23, in Section 205 near the soundboard (very good seats). But, in the first of our many challenges, they wanted us to handle getting the money. So we set up a system for taking either check or PayPal, with an extra “shipping charge” to account for mailing the tickets Certified Mail. We sold 66 tickets this way, and with more than 40 folks purchasing tickets on their own, we knew we would have more than 100 people in Montréal!

BUT WHERE TO STAY? - What did our members consider important in a hotel? Location! They wanted to be as close to Cirque as possible. Working with Tourismé Montréal, we worked to find a hotel in Old Montréal's Vieux Port area that could accommodate us, a challenge since the area is filled with cute (but expensive) small boutique hotels.

After much searching we were able to secure rooms with a hotel that offered plenty of rooms, all the creature comforts of a large international chain, a central location, and a specially negotiated rate. The Marriott SpringHill Suites Vieux-Montréal on rue St-Jean-Baptiste was less than one-quarter mile from the Cirque tent site on Jacques Cartier Pier! The Hotel rooms had quite a list of amenities: A mini-refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and kitchen counter with sink, A sofa sleeper bed in addition to the regular bed(s), free high-speed Internet access, free hot breakfast including eggs, sausage and waffles, underground parking garage, indoor pool, whirlpool, and exercise room, and Gibson Spa on-site offering massage and spa treatments.

While the hotel already had plenty of things going for it, we were able to negotiate a special low rate just for our paid Standard members. While they were more than the typical “Motel 6” type rates (and certainly higher than the Bed and Breakfasts we had used in Vancouver), we pointed out that this was the oldest part of downtown Montreal, a high-rent part of town. The standard suites went for approx. $145.00 USD per night, with roomier deluxe suites going for approx. $165.00 USD per night, with all taxes included. When we were looking for hotels close to the Cirque show tent, there were no other facilities that were so willing to work with us, with enough rooms to house us all at a rate even approaching what we negotiated with the SpringHill Suites.

EATING TOGETHER - One of the highlights of CirqueCon 2004: Vancouver was 30+ Cirque fans from all over North America gathered at the Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, enjoying a spaghetti dinner and getting to know each other. It was something we thought was worth repeating. But could we find a reasonably-priced restaurant able to hold a large number of diners and still be close to the hotel? After some searching we found one, but, again, they wanted only one payment.

We scheduled the meal for Saturday from 4:00pm-6:00pm. Our venue, the Restaurant du Vieux Port was just down the block from our hotel, less than one minutes walking distance! The restaurant offered us a “group menu” of: Choice of soup or salad, choice of Beef Striploin, Grilled Chicken Breast, or Filet of Soul Provencale entrée, and dessert, along with coffee, tea, or soft drink. The total cost per person, including all taxes and gratuity, was $31.00 USD.

The dinner was very successful, with more than 60 Cirque Passionates spread amongst several tables in a large room, enjoying their meals and talking animatedly.

WHAT DID WE DO? - Again, many folks planned trips throughout Montréal to take in its cosmopolitan flair, or take in multiple performances of Corteo. The “official” CirqueCon activities were detailed in pages from our Program Book:

  • FRIDAY - APRIL 22, 2005
    • 3:00pm-5:00pm
      TOHU - La Cité Des Arts du Cirque
      “TOHU TOUR”

      A combination of dream merged with reality (kind of like a Cirque show), TOHU is creating a “hub” of circus performing arts in Montréal. This tour will cover all aspects of the site, from environmental considerations to their burgeoning circus memorabilia and art collection.

    • 6:00pm-7:30pm
      Marriott SpringHill Suites Vieux-Montréal, Rooms 524/525

      OPEN TO EVERYONE! We invite you to our room for a little "get to know you." We'll have munchies and such for consumption (hopefully some from your area of the country!). Have a Cirque collectible you'd like people to see? Show it here!

    • 8:30pm-10:00pm
      La Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
      “AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT” (Field Trip)

      Some may wish to take in this interesting presentation on the history of Montréal and the Basilica in words, lights, projections and sounds. Images are played across large screens and canvas sails strung throughout the sanctuary.

  • SATURDAY, APRIL 23, 2005
    • 11:45am-approx. 4:00pm
      Cirque du Soleil International Headquarters

      Where all the magic and wonder is created! Cirque du Soleil opens its doors to CirqueCon Montréal 2005 members. Cirque has also offered us the opportunity to shop at their Headquarters Boutique! This is the first time the IHQ Boutique has been open to non-employees - ever! It is similar in "style" to the boutiques on tour, with everything out and available for handling, and at a 15% discount!

    • 5:00pm-7:00pm
      Restaurant du Vieux Port

      Gather with other Cirque Passionates to eat, drink, and talk of our shared “passion.” A perfect way to prepare for the wonders to come.

    • 7:00pm-10:30pm
      Jacques Cartier Pier

      On its World Premiere Weekend, the new touring show in only its fourth public performance. With many of us together in our special seats (purchased oh, so long ago) we will watch as Cirque “combines the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a world of playfulness and spontaneity situated in a mysterious area between heaven and earth.”

      Restaurant du Vieux Port

      After the show ends, some of us may go back to the Restaurant du Vieux Port (open till Midnight), or even other places in Old Montréal, to have dessert or coffee and “de-compress.”

It turned out to be another once-in-a-lifetime weekend for over 100 “Passionates.” For more details on the trials and tribulations on planning this gathering, check out this article.

CREDITS - The CirqueCon 2005: Montréal Team (in alphabetical order):

  • Rich Alford - The newest member of our “committee,” he showed his worth quickly. His graphic sense is evident throughout this book, our badges, our tickets and maps - everything! He has touched everything we do, and made it better doing so.
  • Ricky Russo - Lent the support of the Fascination! Newsletter to efforts early on. Compiled and edited the collection of articles from Fascination! for the Vancouver Program Book, and supplied the on-site Vancouver articles for this year.
  • Jeff Tolotti - Though taking a backseat role this year, was the On-Line Instigator & Publications Coordinator for CirqueCon 2004: Vancouver. Produced and compiled CD #2, which he graciously allowed us to continue producing. Now the Administrator of the Cirque du Soleil fan forum.
  • LouAnna Valentine - Played a vital role in decision making with daily conversations, input and debate on our rides home from work. In addition to being a lovely and supportive spouse, also prepared the luscious spread of food and drink at our Meet and Greet Cocktail Hour.
  • Keith Johnson - Whatever else needed to be done. CD's #1 and #3, tons of writing, research/phone calls, hotel and meal booking, being an overly detail-conscious jerk... you get the picture.


  • Alfredo Hernandez, Senior Cruise & Vacation Consultant, Destination Cruise Center and Paul Wiggin, Sales Account Manager, Celebrity Cruises for the special presentation about The Bar at the Edge of the Earth (and for flying up from Miami, FL to do it!).
  • Tohu - Michel Pillon and our guide (whose name escaped us) for their flexibility in fitting us in.
  • Marriott SpringHill Suites Vieux-Montréal - Caroline Gauthier, Event Manager, and Josée Lefevre, Corporate Sales Manager, for sheparding a first-time group coordinator through their system.
  • Restaurant du Vieux Port - Tina Mourdoukoutas, Group Coordinator, and Melissa for their flexibility.
  • Tourisme Montréal - Helene Chagnon, Manager, Meeting and Convention Sales, and Delia Germani, for help with research.
  • Barbara Lewis, for the fundraising idea.
  • Rolf & Karen Mogster, for help collating on a sunny Saturday.
  • Cirque du Soleil - Of course the biggest thanks goes to our gracious hosts. The list of folks who helped us is long:
    • From Internet Marketing: André Belanger, Internet Marketing Manager (one of the tour leaders), Roxane Prince (our Cirque liaison), John-Pierre Beeks (one of the tour leaders), Lisa Willet and Anne-Josée Dionne.
    • From Group Sales: Ugo Bergeron.
    • Our speakers on Saturday: Bernard Petiot, Vice President, Artistic Products, Michel Leblanc, Chief of Rigging Equipment, Patrick Gélinas, Corporate Alliances Supervisor (spoke about The Bar at the Edge of the Earth), Céline Courchesne, Internal Media Production Coordinator (our photographer), and Brigitte Bouthillier (one of the tour leaders).
    • And our other helpers: Marie-Andrée Aubertin, Marie-Noelle Caron, Eric Chenoix, Philippe Gonthier, Kim Patenaude, Pascal Prévost, Raphaelle Pujold, Yvonne Sampson, Maria Shukman, and Pascal Sioui.