Arizona Canadians flock to South Mountain for snow and poutine

Two members from the Royal Mounted Canadian Police, also called Mounties, pose at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)

People attending the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic enjoyed listening to live music. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)

A girl plays in artificial snow at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic at South Mountain Park. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)

Attendees enjoy food and each others’ company at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)

Poutine, French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, are a popular Canadian snack offered at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)

Face painting was among the activities at the 64th Annual Great Canadian Picnic. (Photo by Elena Mendoza/Cronkite News)

“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.

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