After two years of postponement, the Toledo Sister Cities International Festival returned to downtown Toledo on June 25th at Levis Square Park, marking the 11th festival to date. The festival is sponsored by Toledo Sister Cities International (TSCI) which is a non-profit, “that strives to promote cultural, economic and educational development between United States cities and their partner cities throughout the world.” Established August 1, 1992, the goal was “to create an organization that would unite the already created sister city relationships, speak for them with one voice, and promote the development of future affiliations” (ToledoSisterCities.Org).
Toledo established the first sister city partnership in the world with Toledo, Spain in 1931. Since then, the sister cities have vastly expanded to areas all around the globe. Toledo now has Sister City agreements in place with Coburg (Germany); Coimbatore (India); Delmenhorst (Germany); Hyderabad (Pakistan);Nanchong (China); Poznan (Poland); Qinhuangdao (China); Szeged (Hungary); Tanga (Tanzania); and Toyohashi (Japan). A regional agreement is in place with Bekaa Valley (Lebanon).
These agreements must be signed by the same level of local governments in each city to promote and recognize mutual benefits for citizens of both communities. While the footprint of our sister cities is vast, TSCI’s mission is simple: To act as a bridge to foster international activity for world peace and global concerns in education, culture and business in an atmosphere of understanding and mutual respect.
In order to accomplish that goal, sister cities continue to come together to host exchange students, offer scholarships to study abroad, provide summer learning language programs promote group travel. A few examples of how this is accomplished:
The Toledo Diocesan Choir is making a 10-day trip to Spain his summer to perform concerts, with the focus being on Toledo, Spain during the feast of Corpus Christi.
Qinhuangdao, China (also known as the Glass City) / Nanchong
This sister city relationship has established partnerships between Yanshan University and The University of Toledo, as well as with UTMC and Qinhuangdao’s First People’s Hospital. Separately, in 2021, the sister cities worked to exchange forty pieces of art; poetry, calligraphy and paintings, which were put on display in Nanchong, China.
Since its inception, the Toledo-Pozan Alliance has assisted children in an orphanage in Pozan. Toledo travelers have visited Pozen ‘Children’s Home’ and many pictures and communicates continue to flow back and forth.
Beqaa Valley, Lebanon
Sister city partnership projects included a shipment of wheat and medical equipment to Lebanon. In addition, the committees have strengthened their bond by supporting exchange students between Beqaa Valley and The University of Toledo.
Toledo-Tanga sister city relationship led to the opening of a maternity ward for women of rural Tanga who previously had no access to pre or post-natal care, and in addition, three sets of bathroom facilities were opened throughout the city.
These are just a few examples of how the success of the sister cities have fostered community and cultural bonds between Toledo and the rest of the world. In addition to these ongoing events, the festival was one place to bring the richness of these cultures to life in one spot. Many sister cities performed cultural dances, provided a variety of entertainment, and of course brought the best culinary experience.
While there is not an ‘Irish’ sister city of Toledo, the Irish culture was still represented at the festival. Molly’s Irish Dancers (not me!) performed modern and traditional Irish dances along with traditional Irish music to get the crowd going.
Thank you TSCI for all the hard work and coordination it took to bring this festival to life and illuminate our city with smiles from all around the world.
*Molly McHugh is a Toledo native and holds her MSc in Strategy, Innovation and People Management from National University of Ireland, Galway. Molly can be reached at email@example.com