The Blaine Chamber of Commerce announced on February 1 that the annual Hands Across the Border celebration would be cancelled due to escalating costs and diminishing donations.
“It is with sadness that we’ve finally gotten to this point,” said John Liebert, vice president of the International Peace Arch Association. “We fought it off as long as we could.”
The celebration, held every year on the second Sunday in June, has traditionally been a re-dedication of the International Peace Arch monument and celebrates the longstanding peace between the U.S. and Canada. It has taken place 90 times over the past 94 years, with the only interruptions due to World War II and major construction projects.
At its peak, nearly 15,000 people from both sides of the border came to the event, Liebert said. “Anyone that was in a youth organization was eligible to come,” he said. “There were Girl Scouts, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, anyone of scouting age … but there was just no funding and no donations [to keep it going].” The event costs upwards of $10,000 per year to host and is heavily dependent on volunteers.
Pennies, nickels and dimes collected by schoolchildren from both sides of the border in the 1920s paid for the land on which the Peace Arch is constructed. The Peace Arch itself was constructed with volunteer labor and donated materials.
“For years and years there have been people who have come and made this event an important part of their life,” Liebert said. “But it has run its course.”
For more information, contact the Blaine Visitors Center at 360/332-4544.