What are sister cities?
According to Sister Cities International, a nonprofit that facilitates a great many of these relationships, a sisterhood is a “broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries.”
For cities, these relationships are often mayor-to-mayor, and usually entail official visits and student exchange programs. But there are other cross-community collaborations. In Denver, for example, brewmasters from the city of Brest, France teamed up with Renegade Brewing to make a beer celebrating 70 years of sisterhood.
Another cross pollination: local parks
Colorado has 60 partnerships. Thirteen of those are in Denver, though not all of them are “sister” relationships, exactly. Three are “friendship” partnerships, which Denver Sister Cities International program manager Debbie Kasick said is the first step before becoming sisters.
All 10 of the official sister cities have parks here in town. Many of those cities have some variant of a “City of Denver Park,” too. Both Mayors Hancock and Webb visited “City of Denver Park” in Takayama, Japan, our sister city that Kasick said is perhaps the most active. While Hancock was there in 2005, he took part in a tree planting ceremony. You can find trees donated by Takayama in our City of Takayama park in Belcaro.
Why do we have sister cities?
Kasick said she got involved in Denver’s sisterhood program years ago when her son joined a short exchange program to Brest, the city’s first partnership, forged in 1948.
She said she liked the program because it enabled her family to really connect with another culture, and it helped her son on his way to fluency in six languages. He ended up going back to Brest for a whole semester, and Kasick said they were able to do it though sister city connections rather than pay a fortune for a more official program.
It was “more of a person-to-person experience,” she said, “which is what we’re all about.”
Plugging citizens right in to new cultures is about building global relationships on a more personal level.
It’s “world peace, one city at a time,” says a sign at City of Takayama Park. Sister cities, it continues, are a “creative force promoting international cooperation and understanding through citizen involvement.”
The exchanges and events that take place each year — like a bocce ball tournament in the City of Potenza Park this weekend — are opportunities for Denverites to open their minds, Kasick said. “It’s recognizing the world’s not just your corner, and not just Denver, and not just Colorado.”
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