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Like ‘a beer after a hockey fight,’ Canada Day hopes to promote friendship between fighting nations

TAMPA — As a Toronto native living in Tampa Palms, Bryan Grimsdale is not at all comfortable with the way political tensions are rising between Canada and the United States.

"I am a Canadian citizen, but a resident alien. This is my home, but that is my home. He is my president, but that is my prime minister," said Grimsdale, 39, adding in a faux frantic tone, "They are all mine, mine, mine."

On July 1, Grimsdale hopes to broker a peace of sorts between the two nations when he hosts his second annual "Canada Day in Tampa Bay’’ celebration.

Or, as Grimsdale is calling it, "Canada Day in Tampa Bay, Part Deux."

"Let’s have a handshake and a beer after a hockey fight," he says with a laugh. "I promise we never burned down the White House."

Grimsdale was referencing a recent phone call between President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which Trump reportedly accused Canada of setting fire to the White House in the War of 1812.

The White House was actually set afire by British troops. Canada was not yet a nation during the War of 1812.

Canada Day honors the Constitution Act of 1867 that on July 1 of that year united the colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into the self-governing dominion of Canada within the British Empire.

It’s a federal holiday in Canada marked by backyard barbecues and fireworks, much like the Fourth of July in the U.S.

Grimsdale says Canadians and Americans who attend his Canada Day celebration will realize how much their nations have in common.

There’s music. The event will include tunes from Canadian acts such as Nickelback, the Guess Who, Bryan Adams, Neil Young and Drake.

"And Rush. Please don’t forget Rush," Grimsdale said

Canadian drinks will be served, including Molson and Labatt beers, rye and ginger ale made with Canada Dry, and a Bloody Caesar, which, Grimsdale said, is "our version of a Bloody Mary."

As for Canadian cuisine, the highlight will be butter tarts.

"It’s pecan pie about the size of a hockey puck," Grimsdale said. "And it has the same density."

While not required, he hopes attendees will wear the Canadian colors of red and white.

Still, what kind of peacemaker would Grimsdale be if he didn’t remind Canadians what they love about the United States?

"We’ll have Philly steaks, fries, and all the stuff that’s really good for you," he said.

Canadians like the Sunshine State. According to Visit Tampa Bay, the number of Canadian visitors to Florida increased from 3.3 million in 2016 to 3.5 million in 2017.

"The Canadian market continues to be very important to Visit Tampa Bay," said Patrick Harrison, chief marketing officer for Hillsborough County’s tourism bureau. "We hope the Canada Day promotions here can continue to grow."

Yet when Grimsdale relocated to Tampa three years ago, he could not find one public Canada Day Celebration.

So he started his own.

Last year’s inaugural event drew a crowd of 250. Of that, 40 percent did not have any direct or ancestral link to Canada. He hopes the current political climate doesn’t deter that crowd from coming back this year.

"Some people have extreme views," Grimsdale said.

Due to Canada Day’s proximity on the calendar to July 4, he acknowledges it will likely never be as popular here as international celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo.

"I’d love to wear a hockey puck-shaped sombrero and drink red beer," Grimsdale said. "I don’t think anyone else would."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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