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Celebrating Canada Day while they're very far away

By Clare Mellor The Chronicle Herald

Sean Mitton had pulled on his favourite Roots Canada shirt and was on his way to a Canada Day party.

The celebration is being held a little early and won't be in Canada.

"We'll do some barbecuing. Because it's so hot here in North Carolina, we'll have snow cone vending," he said of the party, being held Sunday on Lake Montague in Raleigh.

"There'll be games for the kids, and we'll probably sing O Canada."

Mr. Mitton, 39, who grew up in Georgetown, Ont., founded a group called CanSouth four years ago for Canadians living in North Carolina. It started out of frustration when he and a friend couldn't find any place in the state to watch a hockey game between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadians.

"One of things when you move to another country is, you miss certain things about your home and heritage."

What started as a group of 25 expats has grown to about 500.

Mr. Mitton says it is just one of many groups of Canadians getting together across the States over the next few days to celebrate Canada Day.

An estimated two million Canadian expats live in the United States, he said..

"There will be a lot of red that is worn. . . . There'll probably be some (Canadian) flags. It will just be a great time."

The popularity of CanSouth made Mr. Mitton decide to start the Canadian Expat Network as a full-time job.

A former sales agent for a high-tech company, Mr Mitton moved to the United States about nine years ago during the technology boom.

His new online business, which makes money through corporate sponsorships and through subscriptions, allows Canadian expats to connect based on common social and business interests, he said

"There were needs or services that the expat community (have) that sometimes volunteer organizations can't support," he said.

Carol Stymest, of St. Catharine's Ont., had just arrived at the party Sunday, which organizers expected to draw 50 to 100 people .

She moved to North Carolina last November because her husband was transferred there.

"This is the first CanSouth event that I have attended. . . . I'm having fun meeting other Canadians," said Ms. Stymest, who lives in Wake Forest, near Raleigh.

One of the biggest challenges of celebrating Canada Day in the United States is that the day falls so close to the American July 4 weekend. Many people who live in the U.S take holidays around that time.

"Sometimes people take off , so you do the best you can," said Mr. Mitton.

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