Mind you, I'm thrilled to see so many French-Canadian visitors. So are businesses in South Florida, where their annual pilgrimage contributes a lot to our economy. Merci beaucoup! But it seems the brutal winter forced many more Quebec residents to our sunny beaches than ever. Yes, we set a huge new record from November 2014 - March 2015: Nearly 2.7 million Quebecers in about five months. That's out of a total Quebec population of 8.18 million. Again, wow, huh?
By mid-January, the normally hectic roads in Montreal began to look deserted. Saint Catherine Street welcomed fewer than 23 shoppers a day from mid-January through mid-February. But here in Greater Fort Lauderdale? So many Quebecois brought their sunscreen and Speedos to the Hollywood beach that lifeguards were required to take French lessons. "Excusez-moi monsieur, attention se il vous plait." Dania Beach-Hollywood-Hallandale Beach formed a joint municipal task force to ensure the massive French-Canadian snowbird migration was properly protected, hiring some 73 Montreal police officers this winter. I often saw the Montreal police cars patrolling from Dania Beach Boulevard south to the county line. Yes, this was one incredible busy season for our many many Quebec friends. And they left a big impression on South Florida as they flooded the highways and airports to escape the endless Polar Vortex. They arrived in such huge numbers that local Starbucks began to serve poutine. Some seaside cafes in Fort Lauderdale crossed "ham and eggs" off their morning menus, replacing that breakfast standard with "jambon et oeufs." Even Pompano Beach saw the impact in ways they'd never experienced. After Pompano city officials spotted parking lots filled with those "Je me souviens" license plates, they removed three beachfront "Stop" signs and installed the French equivalent: "Arret," read the new red signage. But you wanna know the most incredible part about all of this? Haha ... It's not true. None of it. Happy (slightly early) April Fool! Yes, we have a kind of tradition here on the sunny.org website of April Fool blogs. I've written them for the past several years now, with only the best of intentions naturally. So if we pulled you into our little jest, please don't feel silly. That was the idea. There's nothing foolish about being fooled on April Fool's Day ... er, or something like that. And hey, feel free to pass along the link to a friend, perhaps a good-natured French-Canadian. Quebec really did send a wonderfully large contingent to South Florida this winter - and who could blame the Quebec folks for being here instead of there? Even a Starbucks poutine tastes good when the weather is 75 degrees and sunny.