The story of the founder of Illumi - A Dazzling World of Lights by Cavalia

at 2021-10-20

Nostalgia and a rush of adrenaline

With Illumi – A Dazzling World of Lights, Cavalia creator Normand Latourelle has brought magic to his childhood city of Laval. Visitors follow a 3-km route, taking in 19 colourful and festive scenes filled with sound and light. They leave with their eyes wide with amazement and smiles on their faces.

The video was shot in fall 2020, some themes might have change.

At the intersection of Highway 15 and Boulevard du Souvenir in Laval, motorists and pedestrians are captivated by an impressive illuminated maze, including a 47-metre tree of lights. Welcome to Illumi, an experience in which 20 million LED bulbs bring more than 30,000 light structures to life, taking visitors on a voyage through a range of settings and emotions, from nostalgia to amazement. One minute, you’re in a magical forest surrounded by giant blue and green mushrooms. The next, you’re crossing paths with a T-Rex and heading toward a multi-coloured savanna filled with giraffes, rhinoceros and Arabian camels. From the moment you start the route, you’ll realize that it’s the perfect family outing.

“With Illumi, I really wanted to bring people a bit of joy,” said Normand Latourelle, former Managing Director of the Cirque du Soleil, whose equestrian shows, Cavalia and Odysséo, have toured the globe. “During our first edition, which ran from October 2019 to January 2020, the scenes represented a trip around the world. This year, we kept some of those scenes, but I added a few more that tap into your imagination and are more fantastical. For example, there’s the Magical Forest, which is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, and Frolic Boulevard, which has a lot of movement and animation with references to Westerns and hockey.”

A nod to the creator’s childhood in Laval

That scene is inspired by Boulevard d’Auteuil in Laval, where Normand Latourelle grew up. Standing in front of his childhood home, he happily tells us about the how his passion for lights began. As a boy, he was in charge of putting up the holiday decorations at home and he planted trees in the yard, which grew quickly. “We probably had the most decorated house in the neighbourhood because I was really focused on it,” he recalled. “When I created Illumi, we came up with a scene that roughly resembled Boulevard d’Auteuil, but also conveyed the idea being completely over the top. It’s really lively and features millions of LED bulbs. It’s much more festive than the street I grew up on, but it planted the seed for what would grow into Illumi.”

The experience brings much-needed light at a time of year when the sun sets the earliest, from October to January. Normand Latourelle has imagined an illuminated world that tells stories and enchants visitors over the course of an evening. “Why do we like the holidays so much and want to decorate our homes?” he asked. “It’s to bring back the light. Light embellishes our lives and leads us and our children to dream. Illumi brings us all back to that. It’s an opportunity to dream with a rush of adrenaline. When people visit, the children shout for joy and have fun.”

Spotlight on Chicago and Laval

The most elegant scene in Illumi is The Cavalia Horses, which recreates the stars of Québec company Cavalia’s equestrian shows. Visitors are surrounded by a sea of 200 illuminated white horses. One is larger than life, standing at 8 metres tall. It was the source of inspiration for Illumi! When Normand Latourelle’s troupe stopped in Chicago while on tour, he decided to create a giant illuminated horse to encourage ticket sales for the show. “It drew a lot attention. That’s what gave me the idea. It got me thinking about how to take that concept further. This was around 10 years ago, when LED lights were just starting to become available. With incandescent lights, we couldn’t use the same types of colours because the bulbs were dipped in paint. With today’s LED lights, you get pure colours.” This type of light therefore offers a wider range of possibilities.

Today, Illumi piques that same type of curiosity when people driving along Highway 15 catch sight of the lights. Illumi has found the perfect location in the creator’s hometown. And the experience is here to stay. As Normand Latourelle explains, Illumi has an agreement with the city of Laval allowing it to operate at least five editions on the site. “Since we were so successful in Laval with Cavalia, it was natural to come back here to create Illumi,” he said. “There’s no better place in the world for it, as some 250,000 cars drive by every day and see the dazzling lights. Even if they don’t come in, they see our tree of lights and it makes them smile.”

Ideally located in Laval, Illumi offers a warm welcome to visitors who venture in. The one-hour route will take you on a wonderful journey, where you will be charmed by the illuminated structures in this enchanted space. So much more than a light show, Illumi is full of magic, wonder and energy.

Article and video produced in partnership with Tourisme Laval, Tour du Québec and Bonjour Québec. Text by Valérie Thérien.

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