• Carmen Marie Fabio

St. Lazare sets the scene for second au Galop

PHOTO COURTESY TJ DUQUETTE

The Town of St. Lazare is preparing for its upcoming second equestrian Festival au Galop with the announcement that this year’s special invited guests are the Knights of Valour troupe demonstrating their ‘extreme jousting’ competitions.

Last year’s inaugural Festival au Galop in St. Lazare that welcomed the musical ride of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police left big horseshoes to fill but organizers are looking to up the action ante this year by welcoming the Knights of Valour, a troupe touting its ‘Extreme Jousting’ as the special invited guests.

“Maybe not as big as the musical ride,” said Mayor Robert Grimaudo, “but pretty big and pretty cool.”

Extreme Jousting is over 2,000 pounds of charging horse, man and armour, the sport of princes come to life in the modern age is the show’s description in a communiqué issued by the town. Though this is its first appearance in Quebec, The Knights of Valour has been competing across North America since 1997.

“What we’ll be doing is focusing on the aspect of warrior horsemanship throughout history, right up into modern-time with the sport we currently do right now,” said senior competitor and educational program coordinator TJ Duquette. He estimates the troupe will consist of about a dozen horses and, including competitors and ground crew, over 20 people.

The troupe competes annually at the Medieval Festival at Upper Canada Village as well as other equestrian venues from across Canada and the United States.

The performers recreate scenes from medieval life - including court jesters, jugglers, fire-eaters and magicians - but are most celebrated for its full-contact jousting, proudly proclaiming that no scripts, choreography, nor airbags are used in their performances.

“Mostly dislocated shoulders and broken bones,” Duquette said when asked if the jousters are subject to injury. “This is an extreme sport, not a theatrical re-enactment or demonstration. What we do is an actual sport so there’s an element of physical injury.”

The jousters use a traditional wooden lance and are clad in historically-accurate suits of stainless steel armour weighing up to 150 pounds. The horses, whom Duquette describes as valuable team members, are draft breeds, typically Clydesdales, Percherons, and Belgians.

“Part of the scoring structure is to try and break the lance,” he said of the system based on the matches held by Henry VIII. “If you strike the target, it’s one point; if you break your lance, it’s five; and if you un-horse your opponent, then it’s 10 points,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting, a bit of a rush.”

The St. Lazare demonstration will feature a four-man competition jousting for several rounds elimination style to determine the winner.

Honourary President

The honourary president of this year’s Festival au Galop is Michel Poirier, owner of both St. Lazare and Hudson IGA outlets and the Auberge Willow Inn on Main Road.

“He’s a pillar of our community,” said Grimaudo. “He has involved himself because he appreciates these types of events and festivals. Having his involvement, his input and knowledge is a huge benefit to the organizing committee. As one of the founding families of St. Lazare, we’re very happy to have him on board.”

District 2 Councillor Pamela Tremblay has been named as ambassador of the event that is set to launch July 1 with Canada Day festivities followed by two days of equestrian events. The 2016 edition will feature two zones, each containing varied programming to reflect the equestrian heritage of St. Lazare.

Merchants who wish to register for a stand at the cultural, equestrian and/or food fair can contact au Galop Project Manager Roxane Aubin at raubin@ville.saint-lazare.qc.ca or at (450) 424-8000, extension 281, before April 29.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available at the above-mentioned contact with a deadline of May 1.

For more info on the 2016 Festival au Galop, see augalop.ville.saint-lazare.qc.ca. For more info on the Knights of Valour, see www.knightsofvalour.ca. For more photos, see our Facebook page.

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