Minneapolis celebrates sister cities

The city hosted the second annual event with representatives from nine cities Sunday.

Fashionista

Ashley Goetz

Fashionista

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak addressed nine of the more than 80 nationalities represented in Minnesota on Sunday, at the second annual Sister Cities celebration in Minneapolis. Representatives from Eldoret, Kenya to Uppsala, Sweden came to the Nicollet Island Pavilion event presented by the Meet Minneapolis Global Partnership Program. Sister Cities International is an organization started by President Dwight Eisenhower with the goal of fostering people-to-people citizen diplomacy. The organization bases their goals on four themes: sustainable and economic development, arts and culture, youth and education and humanitarian assistance. This yearâÄôs celebration featured art, education and dance from all nine of MinneapolisâÄô sister cities âÄîCuernavaca, Mexico; Eldoret, Kenya; Harbin, China; Ibaraki City, Japan; Kuopio, Finland; Novosibirsk, Russia; Santiago, Chile; Tours, France; and Uppsala, Sweden. Rybak spoke at the celebration, emphasizing the importance of global relationships. âÄúLetâÄôs continue to look for ways to reach around the globe,âÄù Rybak said, âÄúand realize these relationships didnâÄôt start overnight.âÄù Rybak said tourism dollars can help less fortunate countries such as those represented at SundayâÄôs events. The hospitality industry is a âÄúRobin HoodâÄù industry that brings money to the poor, he said. The celebration was particularly timely for the mayor as he was recently in China promoting Minneapolis as a tourism destination for the increasingly growing Chinese market. Rybak said his trip to China gave him a tremendous advantage at building these relationships. âÄúThe University of Minnesota has in recent years had more Chinese students than any other American university,âÄù Rybak wrote in his blog . âÄúThatâÄôs very valuable for us because they often return home, get work in good companies or the government, and then can help open doors for Minnesota.âÄù Representing Tours, France, was Jeannine Riche, who got involved with the Sister Cities program to foster a relationship between the Twin Cities and her hometown. Riche has traveled back and forth from her hometown to Minneapolis, where she now resides, promoting the two cities to each other. âÄúI want to expand the Tours culture in Minneapolis and vice versa,âÄù Riche said. âÄúI used to say Tours is like the Minneapolis of the United States. When I got to Minneapolis I felt like I was in Tours.âÄù Chloe Chang , who represented the UniversityâÄôs China Cente r at the Harbin booth at the event, said she took part in the event to promote better relationships between the U.S. and China. The first city to join Minneapolis in the organization was Santiago, Chile in 1961. The partnerships have been steadily increasing, and there is currently talk about another city joining the organization. Ward 2 Councilmember Cam Gordon is promoting a plan that would make Najaf, Iraq a sister city of Minneapolis. If the city council passes the plan, it would be the first such relationship between Minneapolis and the Middle East. The most recent addition to the Sister City partnership of Minneapolis is Cuernavaca, Mexico, which joined in 2008, sponsored by the Minneapolis Cuernavaca Friendship Committee.