A woman, not very tall, with blond-reddish hair, jumps out of her chair to welcome you as you enter the room. Her great big smile – the kind that makes your face hurt in just seconds - and sparkling blue eyes make you feel at ease. After a few moments of discussion, her communicative drive permeates your soul and spirit and puts you into a festive mood. There is no doubt about it: standing before you is a woman who masters the art of celebrating. Meet Christine Morasse, Manager of Corporation des fêtes pour tout le monde. She’s the one who coordinates the organization of two major events in Rouyn-Noranda: Festival pyromusical Osisko en lumière and Fête d'hiver.
Because celebrations, to be successful, require having a strategic mind, inviting the right people at the right time, and of course winning people’s interest and engagement, Morasse’s background in creative advertising and 15 years of experience writing radio ads come as valuable assets. "Straight to the top!" says a serious Morasse as she talks about what guides her constantly when working on her projects, though not without immediately letting out her own distinctive laugh. The woman who has given a new, stronger impetus to the Osisko en lumière summer event since 2015 explains that reaching the top too quickly is risky. "We aim for the top, but we will make it one step at a time. It might take 20 years, but we’ll get there. We must not climb up the slope too quickly, otherwise we run the risk of sliding down just as quickly." The areal photo taken in 2016 of the concert given by The Offspring shows a huge crowd gathered around what, from the air, looks like a small illuminated rectangle on the edge of a lake. That’s when you start wondering (and rightly so!) what will the top be like. "The Offspring in Rouyn-Noranda… Definitely impressive for a small town of 40,000 inhabitants!!!" Impressive all right! For this reason, Osisko en lumière has become a curiosity for people all around the province. The secret? There’s no secret! The key is something everybody talks about it. It’s called HOSPITALITY! (Rumor has it that pyrotechnicians are struggling to come to the Festival.)
Despite her very hospitable, social nature, despite her talent to organize festive events for everyone, Christine Morasse is solitary by nature. "I come from a large family, the next to the youngest child in a family of nine children." Her family has always played an active role on the cultural scene. Everyone in Rouyn-Noranda knows that the Morasses are outstanding musicians and singers. "People used to call us the Von Strap Family, referring, as you will have understood, to the Sound of Music’s Von Trapp family, she says with a laugh. Nonetheless, I need peace and quiet. I live on a remote property on the edge of a lake. And I need my mountain! In the wintertime, I spend a considerable amount of time snowshoeing."
Winter is Christine’s favorite season. So she makes it a mission to communicate and share her passion for winter during the Fête d’hiver event. "We want people to learn to love winter instead of being eager for it to be over with. There was a time when we tried to make the snow disappear; today we consider it as a raw material. We ask ourselves what we can do with snow banks. Build a giant maze or a huge tube slide, 85 ft high and 200 ft long? We play hockey on rinks surrounded by snow bands. We carve snow sculptures. Snow has become a raw material. We have plenty of new ideas for next year. Did you say a giant snow maze? What a great idea." You are right to be a bit jealous of our people, because Fête d'hiver has become a must-attend event for families in Rouyn-Noranda and from elsewhere in the region.
And then you say that you feel like coming back to Abitibi-Témiscamingue and visiting the region. So you dare ask Christine: "What would be your advice if I came back to visit the region? Is there something I absolutely must do or visit?" After a short silence, barely a fraction of a second, Christine knows exactly what to say: "Take your time! What people who visit the region remember most of their stay are the people they meet. They plan their itinerary with care because they want to see Parc national d'Aiguebelle, Refuge Pageau, and other sites. On their way there, they meet people who invite them on their boat to go fishing. It’s people who make the difference. They end up forgetting what they wanted to see. The proof is that people who have been here will come to you and say: "You’re from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, hey? You must know…" They don’t talk about the sites and the attractions. So my advice to you is take the time to talk to the people. You’ll see. Your stay will be punctuated with all sorts of experiences… the kind you don’t find in a tourist guide."
You’re right! Breaking free from the obligation of planning our vacation is what the Art of breaking free is all about!