The FEQ uses the massive Plains of Abraham as a giant outdoor venue, which with the addition of giant screens can pack in a huge crowd. For that reason, ticket prices are extremely reasonable and an all-festival pass cost between $40 and $50.
The festival quickly sold out, the over 150,000 passes it made available and considering that the population of Quebec City is under 500,000 that's quite an accomplishment. The FEQ is gathering in popularity and the English component is bringing in tourists from the United States as well as English Canada, who recognize a good deal when they see one.
Extremely well organized, the FEQ has organized hotel and entertainment packages at prices that shame other Montreal giant events. A daily pass is just $25 and represents the best entertainment value available.
Language militants have complained that too many headline acts are English, (Iron Maiden, Black-Eyed Peas, Rush, etc.etc.) essentially watering down the French flavour of the Festival, to which the organizers bravely responded that they never, ever, promised anything but a diverse and entertaining array of artists that would be musically appealing to the broadest of audiences.
In a new conference, the organizers crowed that their programming decisions seemed to please the public and happily reported that all the festival passes were 'sold out,' to which French militants responded cleverly that it was nothing more than a 'sell out' and that the English programming was nothing more than 'fast food' compared to the gourmet offerings of francophone artists. Link (French)
The slam against the festival that they didn't program enough Francophone artists is in itself as bogus as a three-dollar bill. Organizers did their best and explained the difficulty in bringing in European artists who generally prefer to stay at home in the summer. To bring in more Francophone artists would mean scraping the bottom of the barrel and presenting a local garage band or two and the music lovers wouldn't have any of that.
At any rate, Iron Maiden drew a crowd of approximately 80,000 people and the Black-Eyed Peas did even better, to the point that the fans were tearing down fences to get to see the sold-out show!
Francophone headliners like Laura Fabian, drew in the neighbourhood of 15,000 fans and Gilles Vigneault in the area of 40,000 fan, not close to the Anglo superstars, but still not shabby at all.
The success of the English artists allowed the Festival to subsidize Francophone artists, an idea that went down like a lead balloon once explained to militants, who had been complaining that a Quebec government subsidy was benefiting Anglo groups.
Reaction to articles written by the language militants like Antoine Caron were quite robust. Commenting on the article that compared Anglo music to McDonalds, one commenter didn't mince words.
"According to the author of this article, the Quebec Summer festival should highlight only second-class artists such as Mr. Caron, himself, Honestly!"