Organizers for the Marionnettes Plein la Rue festival promised that this year's event would be "a delirious, delightful thrill for the whole family!"
And by most accounts, it was: Photos of the sixth annual Montreal-area street fair showed smiling crowds eating grilled corn on the cob, browsing through brightly colored booths and enjoying the raison d'être for the event: the free puppet shows.
At least one of those shows delivered on the promise of a delirious thrill — just not in the way organizers expected.
On Sunday, with a crowd of young children gathered around an open-air stage, one of the troupes, Cabaret Décadanse, launched into a number from its free show, "Aux Grand Airs."
The name of the song? "Prison B---h."
The song's lyrics were risqué, to say the least, referencing gay sex between inmates.
In front of the stage, a young girl in a striped blue dress twirled around to the music, oblivious to the lyrics. Another boy tapped his feet to the doo-wop beat.
The ditty continued, as a shaggy gray wolf puppet wearing bunny ears "danced" and sang" to the tune.
Watching and recording the performance from the crowd, Ronit Milo was shocked. She had come to the festival with her 3-year-old son and other family members, and other songs from the troupe leading up to this one had been neutral, she told The Washington Post.
"The festival was promoted as an event for families. It was largely attended by families with young children," Milo said. "It was held in the street, in the middle of the afternoon, and half the audience at the show consisted of children."
Milo later uploaded her partial recording of the offending number on her Facebook page.
"Family friendly entertainment in Montreal. Yay, homophobia for children," Milo wrote in her post. "What a city!"
She noted that most of the little kids, fortunately, didn't seem to understand what was going on.
"I can't imagine what they were thinking when they chose this," Milo wrote. "But it's not just inappropriate for kids. Prison rape and gay sex are not jokes."
In the news release, festival organizers had previewed Cabaret Décadanse's performance as "nothing less than an open-air celebration of song and sensuality, highlighting characters who are both funny and decadent. Sure to bring a smile to everyone's face!"
Performers for the troupe did not respond Wednesday to an interview request, but one of the puppeteers, Serge Deslauriers, told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Montreal that he had given festival organizers a heads-up that it might be a "mistake" to book their adult-oriented show for an event with young children.
"She said she didn't think it was anything bad," Deslauriers told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Montreal. "Children will understand one thing, and adults will understand something else."
A spokeswoman for the festival declined an interview request Wednesday, pointing instead to a lengthy statement it had released apologizing for the skit.
According to the statement, it was only after watching Milo's video on Facebook that organizers realized how inappropriate the number was for a family audience.
"This unease that we share was amplified by the fact that children were present in large numbers in the crowd," the statement read. "The organizers did not have all the necessary information in order to make an educated judgment about presenting this show. The entire team shares in the disappointment that several of you feel about this situation."
Sterling Downey, a city council member for Verdun, the Montreal borough where the festival was held, told the Ottawa Citizen that he blamed both organizers and performers.
"When you think about rape culture in prison, and (the issues around) sexual assault, I can't even believe that anyone would think that would be okay," Downey told the newspaper. "When you have performers and artists who don't know where to draw the line, that worries me. This isn't the Nasty Show at Just for Laughs, where people know what to expect. It was a public event at a family-friendly festival."
Milo said she thought the festival organizers' response was "reasonable and suitable."
"I definitely did not expect this much attention from the video I posted," she said. "I wasn't that surprised by the response from the organizers. ... I'm sure they didn't expect a group to perform a song about prison rape at an all-ages event."