If you have a sister, you know what a unique bond it is and how much you share with one another. Sister Cities International strives to do just this, except with cities across the globe. Sister Cities International was founded by President Eisenhower in 1956 and since then has created meaningful relationships that “are based on cultural, educational, information and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person ‘citizen diplomacy.'”
Fort Wayne is lucky enough to have four unique sister cities: Gera, Germany, Plock, Poland, Taizhou, China, and Takaoka, Japan. Fort Wayne Sister Cities International has made great strides to connect Fort Wayne to our sister cities across the world. They have documented the history of each and every sister city as well as planned exchange trips. We began our relationship with Takaoka in 1977. Takaoka is located in the Northwestern Toyama Prefecture in the Western District of Japan and has a population of about 177,000. Because of our sister city relationship, there is the Takaoka Koshimae Scholarship Fund, which is funded by a distinguished citizen of Takaoka, and the Fort Wayne Chapman Exchange Fund, which is funded by a charter member of Fort Wayne Sister Cities International.
Additionally, four of the local high schools have sister school relationships: Bishop Luers, Carroll, North Side, and Snider. These sister school relationships usually consist of exchange students coming and visiting the city and the high school itself. Fort Wayne also celebrates this sisterhood with an annual Cherry Blossom festival where one can learn more about Japanese culture through events such as a tea ceremony, a kimono show, and classical Japanese dance. A Fort Wayne favorite, Don Hall’s Takaoka of Japan Hibachi Grill was inspired by the sister city bond.
Fort Wayne became sister cities with Plock in 1990. Plock is a city in central Poland located on the Vistula river. About half the size of Fort Wayne, the population is around 126,000. Fort Wayne celebrates their relationship with Plock by hosting the Plock’s Wisla Folk Ensemble this year on July 16th so that we are able to experience our sister cities’ music and dance, as well as having several Fort Wayne teachers who have taught summer classes in English in Plock. Similar to the sister school relationship in Takaoka, Bishop Dwenger is a sister school with a high school in Plock.
It is pretty common knowledge that Fort Wayne has German ancestry, so it wasn’t a surprise when we became sister cities with Gera, Germany in 1992. Gera, located in the state of Thuringia, is in eastern Germany, about 3 hours south of Berlin. The Fort Wayne German Heritage Society played a large role in making this sisterhood happen. In Fort Wayne, we observe this sisterhood with our annual Germanfest where we can get a taste of German culture— as well as a delicious bratwurst. In Gera, they hold an annual medieval themed festival, Hohlerfest, which takes place in October to honor this sisterhood. Northside, Northrop, and Blackhawk middle school have sister schools in Gera, offering opportunities for students to study abroad from Fort Wayne.
Last, but not least, we have our sister city Taizhou, in China. The most recent of our sisters, we became sister cities in 2012. Taizhou is a city on the eastern coast of China's Zhejiang province with a whopping 1.5 million people. In Fort Wayne, we have The Fort Wayne Chinese Families and Friends Association that offers numerous opportunities for the Fort Wayne community to get a feel for Chinese culture including performances, Spring Festival Celebration, and they participate in the Three Rivers Festival parade. Additionally, North Side high school offers Chinese as a language course and is sister schools with a school in Taizhou as well as Maple Creek Middle school.
Fort Wayne is also working on making a sister city relationship with Mawlamyine in Myanmar. Creating lifelong friendships and bonds is one of the primary goals of being a sister city. With the numerous ways Fort Wayne celebrates these sisterhoods, there is no doubt that the Fort Wayne community is learning more about our sisters across the world and making Fort Wayne a little more cultural.
Fun Fact! Indiana also as has four sister states: Taiwan, R.O.C., Baden-Württemburg, Germany, Zhejiang Province, People's Republic of China, and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
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(All photos from Fort Wayne Sister Cities International)