A delegation of 20 Nashvillians including Monell's culinary team and country artist Baylor Wilson visited Edmonton to host the first ever Sister Cities/Nashville pavilion at the Edmonton Heritage Festival, named by UNESCO as the world's largest multicultural festival. More than 100 cultures are represented and 300,000+ visit over the three-day festival. Festival goers stopped by our pavilion to learn more about Nashville, our sister city partnership and to taste great southern fare prepared by Monell's. Baylor and her trip performed from our stage every day. Nashville was featured in print and broadcast media. Additionally, delegates participated in Transit-oriented development meetings, toured the Waster Management Centre for Excellence and Batchford sustainable living community, and received an insider's tour of Roger's Place and the Ice District, led by Bob Black, EVP of Edmonton Arena Corp. The Edmonton mayor's office rolled out the red carpet for our group and hosted us at numerous meals and receptions.
Sister Cities of Nashville won two major awards in the 2019 Sister Cities International awards competition, open to its 500+ member cities. We won the Innovation Award for Arts & Culture for our "Nashville in Belfast" program. Our nominee for Youth Leadership Award, Olivia Connor, also won. It was a tremendous honor to nominate Olivia who has contributed her leadership and many volunteer hours to SCN. She is a 2019 graduate of Martin Luther King Academic Magnet. Assistant U.S. Secretary of State requested a private meet and greet with us to congratulate us on our work. The awards were presented at the Annual Sister Cities International Conference themed "Cities Mean Business" in Houston. SCN Executive Director Heather Cunningham attended and accepted the Innovation Award on behalf of the SCN Board of Directors.
This summer, Sister Cities of Nashville sent students and teacher chaperones representing 13 area public and private area high schools to three of its sister cities on three continents: Caen, France; Mendoza, Argentina; and Taiyuan, China. The Student Ambassador program remains a hallmark of Nashville’s programming, providing students – many who have never traveled out of the country before – a truly life-changing experience as they are home hosted by families in our sister cities.
Student ambassadors to Caen, France were in attendance for the 75th anniversary of D-Day and got to witness the ceremonies and celebrations to commemorate such a tragic and meaningful day in the history of Normandy and the world. Paratroopers in their 90’s performed jumps to commemorate the jumps they made on those same beaches during WWII and the student delegates were able to even try some flying of their own. Together with their hosts, students also visited Mont St. Michel, one of the seven modern wonders of the world, Bayeux, Honfleur and Deauville. They capped off their exchange with two days of sightseeing in Paris.
Student ambassadors to Mendoza, Argentina spent their week bonding with students and at ICEI, the Nashville student exchange partnership school. During their time in Mendoza the students went ziplining in the foothills of the Andes Mountains and rolled down the magnificent Altos Limpios sand dunes. They made traditional empanadas and learned about the history of Mendoza as they visited the monument honoring General San Martin, perched atop a hill in Mendoza. This exchange to the southern hemisphere always offers great adventures for our students.
Student ambassadors to Taiyuan, China began their time in Beijing and toured sites including the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square. They climbed the steep steps of the Great Wall and enjoyed some great photo opportunities. From Beijing they took a train to Taiyuan and were met with enthusiasm by their host families whose students attend Yuying High School. They had the good fortune of being in Taiyuan on the Dragon Festival holiday. They were able to experience the holiday traditions with their host family – from making dumplings to special paper cutting. They visited Jinci Temple and Pingyao ancient city and even had a Kung Fu master give them a class in this ancient art.
This exchange summer with Sister Cities of Nashville was full of many adventures, but the most important take-aways for our student ambassadors were the relationships they formed in the countries they visited and the amazing host families who made their experiences meaningful.
Sister Cities annually partners with the Consulate General of Japan in Nashville and the Japan America Society of Tennessee for a line-up activities celebrating Cherry Blossom season. For the third year Sister Cities collaborated with two amazing ramen chefs for the Annual Ramen Showdown. The chefs prepared "dueling" specialty ramen and served 250 bowls to the first arriving. The event sold out again, raised funds for Sister Cities of Nashville and raised awareness of our partnership with Kamkara, Japan. Sister Cities also hosted the Cherry Blossom Walk, a 3-mile walk on the Cumberland River Greenway led by Mayor Briley and Consul General Kobayashi. A bit of rain didn't dampen the spirits this year for the walk and the festival, where Sister Cities had a booth to showcase our sister city ties to Kamakura.
Sister Cities of Nashville welcomed high school students and teachers from sister cities Taiyuan, China; Mendoza, Argentina; and Tamworth, Australia this spring. They stayed with host families with students at myriad public and private high schools in Nashville. Our visitors attended school with their hosts for a few days to have an American high school experience and Sister Cities provided programming that allowed the students to learn about the issues facing Nashville; learn about city governance; and visit cultural and historic attractions. The students also volunteered with the TN Environmental Council, helping to plant trees and beautify Nashville.
Sixteen Nashville delegates traveled to Mendoza, Argentina to experience the cultural extravaganza that is Vendimia! The 81st Annual grape harvest festival featured a fabulous parade and an evening spectacle that would rival any Superbowl half-time show (and it was two hours long with more than 1,000 performers). Delegates also visited ICEI school, where we have conducted reciprocal educational exchanges for over five years. The mayor's office hosted a reception for the group, featuring Mendoza wines, empanadas and a tango demonstration. Our delegation toured many vineyards, an olive oil factory, spent a day at a spa with thermal springs just outside of Mendoza, and, of course, enjoyed connecting with friends, students and their families who have previously visited Nashville.
The Vice Mayor of our Chinese sister city Taiyuan led a delegation of city department heads in water, agriculture, and civic affairs to Nashville. The group met with Nashville Mayor Jim Shulman; Nashville experts in water quality and conservation, and toured Martha O'Bryan, a center that serves families through a cradle to career continuum of innovative programs. The day was capped off with a southern dinner hosted by the Omni Hotel. Metro Council members Sharon Hurt and Sheri Weiner joined the group for further discussion, toasts and presentation of gifts.
Sister Cities members and friends gathered on a very rainy night in the beautiful offices of Neal & Harwell. Guests enjoyed a welcome poem by Vice Mayor Jim Shulman as well as highlights from the year presented by Executive Director Heather Cunningham. Board chair Marieta Velikova introduced the new board member candidates and asked for a motion to approve. Five new board members were officially voted in to Sister Cities: Kate Bentley, Amy Bryan, Aaron Fiske, Catrina Bell and Amy Karaman.
In December 2018, a group of physicians from Taiyuan Number Two Hospital visited Nashville to study best practices in senior care. They visited with the CEO and surgeons at Centennial Hospital, toured the ICU and rehab facilities: met with executives at Brookdale (senior care provider) and toured one of their senior living communities; and toured Abe's Garden, a unique community supporting Alzheimer's patients.;
Sister Cities of Nashville hosted its 10th Annual World of Friendship in November 2018 and enjoyed its most successful fundraiser to date. More than 225 guests enjoyed international cuisine, an amazing silent auction, and a live music performance by Cuba's Sweet Lizzie Project. Our honoree was Gail Vaughn Ashworth, an attorney and long-time board member and past president of Sister Cities of Nashville.
Sister Cities of Nashville
Sister Cities of Nashville connects the people of Nashville to people of the world, promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation - one person, one community at a time.