The two giant beasts that roamed the streets of Ottawa for four days are gone, but the superlatives are still flying.
Organizers estimate that 750,000 people watched the huge mechanical dragon-horse and spider from the French company La Machine perform during a four-day spectacle of street theatre in downtown Ottawa, the ByWard Market and LeBreton Flats.
Images of the graceful puppets ambling around will help put Ottawa on the map, in the estimation of the ByWard Market BIA, which issued an open letter on Monday to thank Ottawa 150 organizers for staging the event.
“Theatrical shots of giant robots with local imagery and landscapes as the backdrop will be the new standards in social media and in marketing campaigns,” said the letter from Jasna Jennings, executive director of the BIA, which represents more than 600 businesses. “This ‘sleepy’ little town sure came to life!”
Restaurants and cafés in the market were jammed on the weekend, with some running out of food.
“La Machine lived up to and surpassed all expectations,” said the BIA. “The anticipation and exhilaration were palpable.”
No one was happier than Guy Laflamme, the executive director of Ottawa 2017, which is sponsoring multiple events to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. “This was way beyond all of our wildest dreams in terms of the crowds,” he said.
His estimate of 750,000 people over four days is an educated guess based on two separate calculations. Canada Day on Parliament Hill usually attracts 350,000 to 400,000 people, said Laflamme. He chopped the Canada Day numbers in half, to be conservative. He also calculated the square metres in major areas where crowds congregated, figured there was one person per square metre, and doubled that to account for turnover in crowds as people came and went.
There were no major accidents or incidents apart from a few people with panic attacks in the crowds and about 40 children who got lost but were quickly reunited with their parents, he said. A squad of volunteers was assigned to watch for lost children.
The Ottawa 150 office was fielding calls and emails from people on Monday who wanted to thank the city for staging the event. “We have created so much happiness and joy in our city, and provided so many memories that people will talk about for years,” said Laflamme.
There were some complaints about the crush in the crowds and road closures that caused traffic congestion. But many of the spectators were amazed.
“Gonna miss these beasts roaming our streets!” tweeted Erin Bethell after the grand finale at the Canadian War Museum Sunday.
“So cool to have this in our town,” tweeted Chris Avery, who called it “spectacular.”