The International Parade that Almost Wasn’t

If you were in town for this week’s International Homecoming Festival, you had the opportunity to see the fruition of the efforts of two cities in two separate countries coordinating to ensure that national borders don’t sever the international community of the St. Croix Valley. It may not have been the biggest or flashiest parade, but it was significant for what it represented, particularly in a time of rising disconnectedness. 

Aside from the parade itself, I found the festival to be an illustration of contrasts. The jubilation of festival-goers finding their long-lost friends in the street and the joy of children and adults alike that participated in and watched the various events were sharply contrasted by the moments of silence held in respectful remembrance of a community member taken too suddenly and too soon. 

Other contrasts abounded. Amid the 1800s-era brick buildings downtown rose a rare but increasingly familiar sight on Saturday: a hovering unmanned drone filming footage of the crowds and the activities in Triangle Park. In that moment, looking at the hovering drone with its backdrop of centuries-old buildings, I knew that no matter how much we are inclined to think of Washington County as remote and isolated, there are no real barriers to the encroachment of technology. The point was emphasized for me on Sunday as I stood filming portrayals of long-dead residents of Calais at the Cemetery Tour, creating a record of the lives of people that would have likely had little idea of what a digital video was. 

What will our own futures hold? How will our stories be remembered? Will the St. Croix Valley continue to celebrate its unique international community with a festival and a parade? As the saying goes, only time will tell – though as far as the festival goes, I will borrow the words of St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern: “Having an international festival is ours to have, and the only ones who can take it away is us.”