Arizona Canadians flock to South Mountain for snow and poutine

“Rock your maple leaf, get a little loonie.”

Linda Myers, who moved to the Valley 20 years ago from her native Ontario, wore a hat symbolizing the slogan at the Great Canadian Picnic. The red and white hat rocked a felt maple leaf, a national symbol of Canada.

“The Great Canadian Picnic is such a nice way to just see a lot of Canadians in one place,” said Myers, who has attended the annual event with her husband for six years. “We can all get together with them and soak up a little bit of Canadian culture that we certainly miss.”

Canadian families on Saturday sledded on a hill of artificial snow, danced to a live band, had their faces painted and chowed down on poutine, a familiar Canadian dish of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, with the peaks of South Mountain as a backdrop.

Canadians are common in the Valley.

According to the event website, the number of temporary Canadian residents peaks to 890,000 in the winter. About 128,000 Canadians live in Phoenix full-time.

The picnic was started in 1953 as a way for these local Canadians to enjoy each other’s company while they are away from home.

“It’s a day when Canadians aren’t invisible, we don’t blend in and we’re standing up and inviting people to enjoy what we enjoy at home,” Penelope Clark, who chairs the picnic, said.