This first week of February was particularly festive in the Twin Cities of 86 years ago. That’s when the First International Convention of the Canadian Snowshoe Union “invaded” Lewiston.

Hundreds of snowshoe club members from north of the border arrived aboard special trains on the bright but cold Saturday morning of Feb. 7, 1925.

“Banners flying, trumpets blaring, cannon booming, thousands cheered a band of gaily dressed marchers as they swung from the Grand Trunk Station into Lincoln Street,” declared the page one report in the Lewiston Evening Journal. It marked the first time the Canadian organization had visited here. They paraded through the city’s streets in colorful uniforms that were to be seen many times in later years during similar winter celebrations.

“No more brilliant spectacle has been seen in this city in years than that of the sportily costumed, jauntily marching band,” the reporter declared. “All along the way there were crowds of cheering spectators to welcome the visitors to Lewiston,” he wrote. “Their singing, for they did sing, was cheered, and the music of their drum corps set the feet of all who watched the parade a-tingling with the desire to get out onto the road and take a hand in the march.”

There were races in the park next to City Hall, and the newspaper ran a photo of the ice palace nearly two stories high that had been constructed there.

“Movie men cranked their cameras and the operators of still cameras were shooting their Graflexes as fast as their fingers could work them,” the article said.

That 1925 event featured a visit by Maine Gov. Ralph O. Brewster who traveled by trolley from Augusta to Lewiston. City Hall was the convention headquarters and the governor watched as the Canadian visitors trooped in.

“Can such a scene as this ever be put down in black and white?” he asked the reporter.

“It won’t be long before we will be having just this thing in Maine,” Gov. Brewster said. “We will have hundreds of clubs. They are already springing up, and some day we will make a friendly invasion of Canada.”

The previous day, a pair of special snowshoes was presented to Gov. Brewster by the Tubbs Snowshoe Co. of Norway, a firm established there in 1906. It was the “MacMillan model,” used by Rear Adm. Donald B. MacMillan in his Arctic expedition in the early 1900s. The snowshoes were said to be made of curly ash, “a very rare wood,” and they had the governor’s name imprinted on the crossbar.

“Monsieur Clouette, the world’s champion snowshoe walker,” was introduced to the Governor, and when he was told about the gift of Tubbs snowshoes, the champion challenged Gov. Brewster to “Put them on and we will have a race.”

“I would love to,” the governor replied, but he turned back to shaking hands with other Canadians, and the race never got started.

That 1925 report reminded me of the Snowshoe Convention events I witnessed in the early 1950s. It sounded very much the same, and the annual events had retained much of the significance that Gov. Brewster had predicted.

The colorful coats, sashes and toques (knitted hats) worn by both Canadian and Maine club members was a highlight. Races took place on the snow-covered sports fields behind the Lewiston Armory and Lewiston High School (now Lewiston Middle School). And colorful coats, sashes and hats were again seen in parades.

Maine’s snowshoe clubs still thrive, but the community activities in Lewiston, Rumford and Biddeford no longer approach the scale of those conventions of several decades ago.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending e-mail to [email protected]

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