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Canadian Snow Sails To Puerto Rico

December 12, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- This tropical Caribbean island is expecting a white Christmas. In fact, it's already on its way -- on a cargo ship from Canada.

An entrepreneur is bringing 300 tons of snow from Quebec to San Juan and, beginning Friday, plans to charge families $30 each to build snowmen and wage snowball fights in a refrigerated event hall.

``It's going to be like a dream for these people -- to see real snow!'' businessman Luis Guzman said.

Guzman -- whose Family Events Inc. promotion company books circuses and figure skating shows -- is spending $200,000 to import the snow from Fermont, Quebec.

Residents of Fermont -- population 3,500 -- say they're baffled. ``I can't believe somebody would want our snow,'' said Mayor Robin Belanger.

But in this former Spanish colony turned U.S. territory, Santa Claus is challenging the traditional Three Kings in popularity. And with Puerto Ricans paying $70 for U.S.-style fir Christmas trees imported from Canada, Guzman thinks people will pay for a bit of white Christmas.

``Everyone hears so much about the whole American winter -- the Christmas carols, the snow, Santa Claus coming down the chimney,'' he said. ``It's a beautiful tradition, and I think the people here want to share in it.''

It's not the first time snow has come to Puerto Rico -- a store imported a truckload a few years ago as a publicity stunt, and a San Juan mayor once flew in a few tons for children.

But Guzman's is by far the biggest and most costly shipment.

In Fermont, workers used snow blowers to fill freezer trucks which hauled the snow 1,100 miles to a port in St. John, New Brunswick, said Shawn Pettipas, a freight manager handling the operation in Canada.

Ships carried the snow about 2,000 miles south to Puerto Rico in refrigerated containers. The first ship set sail last week. It was to unload in San Juan on Tuesday, but delays pushed the arrival back, probably until Thursday, Guzman said.

Pettipas said he picked Fermont because he figured it was guaranteed to have snow by now. Temperatures there hit 15 degrees this week.

In Puerto Rico, at a humid 88 degrees, workers were preparing the ``snow house'' in Luis Munoz Marin Park.

Cooling machines and blowers backed by two generators will create an artificial snowfall, Guzman said.

Those who want to play will be equipped with plastic booties -- ``to keep the snow clean,'' Guzman explains -- and get 15 minutes to frolic.

Outside, there will be helicopter rides with Santa Claus, a Christmas light display and fountains.

If it's successful, the Canadians say half in jest, the Great White North might have a new export.

Said Mary Keith, spokeswoman for Kent Lines Shipping, which is handling the cargo: ``Everybody here is wondering, `Is there a business in this?'''

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