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Masquerave brings sexy back to Whistler's Cornucopia festival

The world famous Masquerave Party at the Bearfoot Bistro, in Whistler, BC; on Nov. 10, 2006.

Joern Rohde for The Globe and Mail/joern rohde The Globe and Mail

Restaurateur André Saint-Jacques's Masquerave returns Saturday to revitalize Whistler's Cornucopia wine and food festival.

The night will mark the end of the legendary party's five-year hiatus, sparked by unrelenting criticism for being too provocative and bending liquor laws, said Mr. Saint-Jacques.

"I think that the event got always crazier and crazier," he said.

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One year, naked women stood in his Bearfoot Bistro restaurant smothered in chocolate dipping sauce for patrons' strawberries. Another time, guests ate sushi off nude women – with only a leaf between their bodies and the appetizer.

Some found the blatant eroticism distasteful, said Mr. Saint-Jacques, who also faced pressure for his interpretations of liquor laws. He chose to stop hosting the after-party.

Cornucopia definitely missed his presence, said Sue Eckersley, the festival's executive director. Masquerave drew big crowds and exclusive wineries, she said.

When Mr. Saint-Jacques announced his return, the festival planners eagerly wrote letters supporting his special liquor licence request.

"Apparently there's about 30 [liquor law exemptions]" Ms. Eckersley said. "Basically, it's everything to have a great party."

Tourism Whistler joined the letter-writing campaign, said Lynn Chappell, manager of partnerships, promotions and events. Masquerave boosts the experience because Mr. Saint-Jacques brings additional wineries, she said, and draws visitors who might otherwise be undecided.

Christopher Quinlan, a Resort Municipality of Whistler council member, agreed.

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"In Whistler, it's all about bringing people up here to stay in our hotels and enjoy everything the resort has to offer," Mr. Quinlan said. "And Masquerave is just brilliant in doing that."

The council unanimously voted to support Mr. Saint-Jacques's special liquor licence request.

This Saturday, attendants can expect a bigger and better party. The eroticism will be more discreet, said Mr. Saint-Jacques. Body painted models will be on site, but the rest is a surprise.

Almost 200 staff are preparing for the spectacle, including Vancouver circus art performers directed by Cirque de Soleil, he said.

"Imagine yourself actually walking into a Cirque de Soleil show."

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