UPDATE: Online backlash has village association urging protest to keep Sainte-Catherine balls
Within an hour of the Montreal Gay Village's Facebook announcement that "after 8 wonderful years, it's time for our balls to retire," the organization faced an online backlash. Then in a confusing update about forty minutes later, the village merchant association asked Montrealers if they "wanna protest to keep them?"
A clear majority of respondents to the association's Facebook post say they don't understand the move to retire the balls. At the time of writing this 72% of Facebook reactions were sad, angry or shocked (Wow), while only 28% liked or loved the idea and there's already a hashtag suggestion: #KeepTheBalls
As the association requested, Montrealers have been quick to protest.
"Nooooo, don't take our balls away!!!," shouted Martin Benoit on Facebook
"We must not lose our famous coloured balls," wrote Sebas Simard.
"It's become a landmark and now you want to undo it?," asked Jonah M. Pak.
Maurice Vienneau said the balls put "some colour in the sky when it has none (like) rainy days or when it's cloudy."
"They've become a signature for the neighbourhood and a strong symbol that's known around the world," added Vanessa Roland.
"If they are to be replaced, which I hope they won't, it HAS to be by something even more iconic or just visually striking," said Thierry Laberge.
A post by Tyler Andrews may sum up reactions best, "it has become a defining installation for the entire city of Montreal, not just the village! PROTEST"
It was from the podium of an unrelated event in the village on May 31st that Mr. Yannick Roberge - an associate of artist Claude Cormier - stunned Mayor Plante and the audience when he said 2018 would be the end of the neighbourhood's colourful canopy.
Afterwards, Mayor Plante said she didn't know where the information was coming from and that she would get more information.
A source associated with the merchant association told CJAD 800 that Cormier and his landscape architecture and urban design company, Claude Cormier and Associates, is the owner of the balls and concept - called "18 Shades of Gay."
It is alleged that Mr. Cormier asked that the village balls not be renewed "so that other designers may work on a new project in the village."
CJAD 800's request for an interview with the merchant's association was declined before being referred to Mr. Roberge and Claude Cormier and Associates. We are currently attempting to contact them for comment.
There are more than 180,000 coloured balls that hang above Sainte-Catherine street between Saint-Hubert and Papineau streets and the project has become an international tourist attraction and destination.
* CJAD 800 sought to identify Mr. Roberge in the days following the May 31st event. A public relations person for the merchants association contacted our reporter to provide the information and request a correction on June 7th and we updated our story without delay.