German Student Visit, Park Ceremony Reminders of Saline's International Friendships

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 10/20/2016 - 02:54

Over the past weekend two events happened that celebrated Saline’s international friendships with our sister cities Lindenberg, Germany and Brecon, Wales.

On Friday morning at City Hall, Saline welcomed 22 GAPP (German American Partnership Program) students from Lindenberg. The group had recently arrived and will be staying in Saline until November 2.

The student exchange is sponsored by the Saline Lindenberg Friendship Committee. German students are living with host families throughout the city.

Councilman Jack Ceo started off the welcome with a German greeting. Although he said “Guten Abend” (good evening) instead of Guten Morgan (good morning) the rest of his “Willkommen in Saline” (Welcome to Saline) speech went fairly well and the visitors complimented him for his efforts.

Ceo introduced Saline’s “Bürgermeister” (mayor) Brian Marl who welcomed the students in English and offered them a lapel pin as a sign of friendship. The pins depict the official seal of the City of Saline.

“I want you to know how much we enjoy having you here and how special the relationship is between Saline and Lindenberg,” Marl said.

Sara Shuster, who taught German in Saline, thanked all the committee members and host families for making the exchange possible.

“We have an amazing time planned,” Shuster said. “One of our ways to give back to the Saline community is we will be planting bulbs today, bulbs of friendship.”

The bulbs were planted in front of City Hall and will be a reminder of the two cities’ friendship as the flowers bloom in the spring. Later the German students painted the rock at Mill Pond Park, another reminder of their visit.

The visiting students presented a video about Lindenberg, but unfortunately the audio did not work. Nevertheless, one of the two teachers that accompanied the students (both of whom are named Katrine) provided some commentary.

“Lindenberg is also called the Hat City as the hat industry started there a long time ago and it’s still very important,” Katrine said. “We have got a brand new hat museum there.”

She said that the iconic hat used by Indiana Jones in his first movie was made there. She spoke about other features in town including an impressive city hall, a cathedral, a lake and lots of cheese.

“I would like to invite your kids to our home town,” she said. “It is nice there. We love children. We have loads of cheese and cows so your children can have lots to eat there.”

This group is the sixth company of students from Lindenberg to visit Saline.

Friends With Brecon

The next day at 2:00 p.m., a group of over 20 people met at Brecon Park to dedicate a new bench. This bench commemorates the 50 years of Saline’s partnership with Brecon, Wales, another sister city.

Bruce Westlake was the master of ceremonies as those present discussed the relationship of Saline and Brecon and eventually unveiled the bench.

“The boards got together and decided that there should be a lasting memorial and we settled on a bench,” Westlake said.

The bench was made in Michigan from plastic recovered from recycled milk cartons. It is expected to endure for decades. Words deeply engraved in the center of the backrest say, “In celebration of 50 years of friendship 1966 – 2016” with the names of the two towns on each side.

Marjorie Sheldon spoke on her own behalf of her husband Don Sheldon and herself.

“I’ve been involved since 1978, only,” said Sheldon. “I do have a lot of wonderful memories. I think the hallmark of our particular sister city relationship – or twinning as it’s called in Brecon – is the fact that it has remained a people to people concept throughout the whole time.”

The People to People Program was launched in 1956 by Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower to promote international understanding. But Sheldon was also using the phrase to indicate that the Saline-Brecon relationship was one of personal interaction between private citizens of the two municipalities.

Sheldon also noted the importance of music in melding the relationship. Brecon sent their community choir and Saline has responded with the men’s choral group Measure for Measure and the Saline High School Band.

Friendship Guild member Dottie Barnes said “there are sister cities all over the country, but we are the oldest People to People exchange in the country.”

When the speeches were done, members assisted in pulling the flags and the black veil off of the new bench. Afterward, various groups posed for pictures sitting on the bench.

Members are hoping that local people and those in Brecon will continue the program for many years to come.




Bob Conradi's picture
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.