By GIOVANNA DELL'ORTO
The Associated Press
Saturday, July 1, 2006; 2:50 AM
ATLANTA -- With a polar dip in Arizona, street hockey in Atlanta, a volleyball tournament in Florida and red maple leaves displayed everywhere, Canadians across the United States are celebrating their independence the same weekend their southern neighbors are gearing up for theirs.
"Usually we just kind of blend, don't we? We don't want to be offensive, but we are proud of where we are from," said Shelley Ryan of Edmonton, Alberta, the organizer of a neighborhood run in Shreveport, La., in which participants will wear temporary maple leaf tattoos for Canada Day on Saturday.
North of the U.S. border, celebrations marking the 139th anniversary of Canada's becoming a self-governing dominion with ties to the British crown will include fireworks, concerts, parades and street parties. Some 100,000 people are expected to gather on the lawn of the Parliament building in Ottawa.
While it's not as well-known of a national holiday as July Fourth or Mexico's Cinco de Mayo, July 1 is a chance for the estimated 920,000 Canadians who live in the U.S. to show some red-and-white pride. And they are seizing the opportunity: An embassy Web site for U.S. Canadians lists more than 100 events in 33 states.
"We've all the fun of being North American without the responsibility of being a superpower," said Geoff Cross, who moved from Ottawa to Flagstaff, Ariz., in 2002 and is organizing his fifth Canada Day event there. "We miss not taking yourself so seriously."
Still, Cross is very serious about his block party, especially after a man last year was treated for hypothermia after spending 13 minutes in the polar dip, an oak barrel filled with iced, 39-degree water. "It's quintessentially Canadian to submerge people in ice water," Cross said.
This year, he's incorporating a timed version of the dip in a "Canadian skill course" that also includes hockey and curling.
There also will be some delicacies: Poutine, that is french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy; and Nanaimo chocolate bars, which Cross plans to bake using Graham crackers, chocolate and a pound of butter per tray.
A similar menu _ plus cinnamon-sprinkled, deep-fried pastries called "beaver tails" _ awaits the 25 military families from Canada at Tyndall Air Force Base east of Panama City, Fla., where Canadian and U.S. soldiers faced off Friday in a beach volleyball tournament.
The base is a post for the binational North American Aerospace Defense Command.
"I'm very proud to be a Canadian and I'm very proud _ I know it sounds corny _ to serve alongside American forces," said Lt. Col. Kelly Kovach, the commanding officer of the Canadian component at Tyndall, who grew up on a ranch in the Canadian Rockies.
Like many expatriate Canadians, Kovach said he misses the Canadian winter, though not so much shoveling all the snow.
"You never get used to the heat down here," said Marty Seed, a 34-year-old from Halifax who organized Saturday's beer-and-hockey event in Atlanta.
Just like Canada Day is barely known in the United States, some say they feel like the forgotten immigrants.
"For countries conjoined at the hips, you'd think there'd be a smoother process," said Marie Thomas, who moved from Montreal to the San Francisco area more than six years ago and is still waiting for a green card. "Perhaps we blend in too well, sometimes."
On the Net: