You never know

There’s no harm in asking.
That clearly was the mindset over in International Falls last week when Mayor Shawn Mason wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama inviting him to the dedication ceremony for the new James Oberstar Riverfront Complex on July 2—which also happens to coincide with the annual international tug-of-war between Fort Frances and our cross-border neighbours.
There’s a snowball’s chance in Hades that President Obama will accept the invitation to visit Borderland, let alone take a lead spot on the Falls’ tug-of-war team, but you have to admire the community’s gumption for firing off the invite to Washington. As International Falls CAO Rod Otterness put it, “You never know.”
True enough. And as Mr. Otterness also rightly pointed out, the presence of the president certainly would shine the spotlight on our tug-of-war, which was first held in 2006 and 2007 before being revived again last July after a two-year hiatus.
After that event, which saw the Falls triumph for the first time (albeit under suspicious circumstances), there’s been a concerted effort to turn the tug-of-war into a major festival, complete with celebrities and media coverage. And why not? Not only does it tie in with our respective national holidays, but how many other communities—or countries, for that matter—can boast opposing citizens heaving on a rope stretched across a river?
The key, of course, is creating a buzz—and then sustaining it. That’s easier said than done, though, as we’ve seen here over the years. Events like Culturama, Fun in the Sun, and the Little Amik Winter Carnival all have fallen by the wayside while the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship remains on life support. Even the Fort Frances Folk Festival, another fine idea, has a long way to go if it’s to blossom into its full potential.
In a nutshell, it’s difficult these days to get the volunteers needed to organize such events, as well as carry out the myriad of tasks during them, who are so critical to their ultimate success. Yet these festivals are equally crucial in putting a community on the map and attracting much-needed tourist dollars. Frankly, their value cannot be overstated and every opportunity must be pursued.
International Falls has taken the bull by the horns on the tug-of-war, culminating with last week’s invitation to President Obama. The ball is now in Fort Frances’ court to try to drum up similar excitement—whether by inviting Prime Minister Stephen Harper or perhaps Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Again, the chances of them attending, at least this year, are very slim but why not aim high? The publicity is priceless and the worst that can happen is they say no.
In the meantime, if we’re successful in building up the tug-of-war, who’s to say a president and prime minister just might grab the rope some day down the road?
Hey, you never know.

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