There’s one word, a very important word, that seems to get left out of news reports and general conversations about the city of Memphis’ most well-known and well-loved festival: “International.” In fact, we bet you could survey people at dinner tonight and many wouldn’t know which country is being honored during this year’s Memphis in May.
Yes, Memphis in May, as we locals call it, is really the Memphis in May International Festival. More than a month of various signature events (Beale Street Music Festival, BBQ Fest and the MIM Half Marathon to name a few) tend to overshadow the original reason the festival was started 40 years ago, which is to partner with countries across the globe to foster better relations, cultural understanding and to raise international awareness about everything that makes Memphis, well, Memphis. Each year since its inception, an honored country is chosen, and for the month of May, we exchange students, we celebrate our cultures, and we welcome dignitaries and international visitors to the Bluff City.
In celebration of Memphis in May’s 2016 honored country, which happens to be Canada, StyleBlueprint has put together a little primer about the country to our north that’s known for hockey, a hottie prime minister, Mounties and all things maple.
First, just a few stats about Canada. The country has an estimated population of 36 million people, 10 provinces and four territories. Toronto is its largest city, with Montreal coming in second. Behind Paris, Montreal is the second largest city with a French-speaking population. Canada has close to 32,000 “big lakes,” defined as lakes over 300 hectres (about 740 acres); two of those lakes are two of the world’s biggest: Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake. Here are some other fun facts to whip out between Memphis in May events that will wow your friends!
1. Kermit the Frog would love Canada.
About 30 percent of Canada’s total landmass is forest, and then there are all those lakes. It sounds like a frog’s paradise, doesn’t it?
2. What’s that you say, eh?
“Eh” is not placed just anywhere in a sentence; it is used only at the end, as a confirmation, agreement or question, eh?
3. Sweet strategy!
There is actually a Canadian national strategic maple syrup reserve. We kid you not. It’s run by the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers/Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec, and like any strategic reserve, all that yummy sweetness is not located in just one building, or even in one town. The reserve is made up of warehouses scattered across Québec that are filled with barrels of syrup, just in case pancakes become super-fashionable again. There was even a Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist in 2012, when 1,000 tons of syrup – valued at $30 million Canadian dollars – was pilfered from one of the warehouses. Yes, the sticky-fingered criminals were apprehended, thanks undoubtedly to the Mounties.
4. We’re BFFs. Really …
The U.S.-Canadian border is the longest international border in the world. And while you will certainly pass through a border crossing, there is no military presence on our mutual border. Bonus fact: 75 percent of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border.
5. … even though we invaded Canada. Twice.
Americans invaded Canada twice, first in 1775 and again in 1812. We lost both times, eh?
6. There are wildlife overpasses.
In Banff National Park in Alberta, highways are designed to allow wild creatures and motor vehicles to coexist as well as possible. They’ve built brilliant wildlife overpasses for the grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes and all their friends to use, instead of having to dart across traffic.
7. Calling Gibson’s Donuts! Time to franchise?
Canada consumes the most donuts/doughnuts and has the most doughnut shops per capita of any country in the world. Perhaps they invented the maple/bacon combo …
8. Safe passage to freedom
It’s estimated that at least 30,000, and possibly as many as 100,000, enslaved African-Americans escaped to Canada – and freedom – prior to and during the Civil War.
9. Who’s smarter than a fifth grader? Everyone in Canada.
According to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, Canada has an astonishing 99 percent literacy rate, and over half of Canadians have college degrees. By comparison, the U.S. literacy rate is 86 percent and just over 30 percent of Americans have college degrees.
10. Poutine is the ultimate Canadian comfort food.
Scrumptious and certainly unhealthy, poutine is a weird-but-it-works combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. It originated in Quebec, and, like American mac and cheese, there’s no limit to the toppings and combinations one can dream up.
11. We want one!
How cute would this look on your car? License plates in the Canadian Northwest Territories are shaped like polar bears. The shape was created in 1970 to celebrate the centennial of the territory.
12. Give ’em a ring sometime.
Canada’s official phone number is 1-800-O-CANADA. We’re not sure if that will get you to the prime minister’s office, but it’s worth a shot, eh?
Guess what?! StyleBlueprint is heading to Charlotte, NC, this spring. Tell your friends, and click here to sign up to be among the first to know when we’re live!