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    2008 Events


    The student exchanges between Omihachiman Brotherhood Christian School and Grand Rapids Christian Schools continue. In March, one teacher and 14 students from Omi visited Grand Rapids and stayed with host families. They visited high school classes, met the mayor and toured our area. Three Goodwill Mission delegates stayed with GRSCI host families while visiting in August. They enjoyed visiting West Michigan and experiencing life with their host families. Omi committee member Anette Baron coordinated “Japan -- Land of the Midnight Sun” for the Michigan State University Evening College. On three consecutive Mondays in October, students learned the basics of Japanese pronunciation, the geography of Japan and family life. They took a virtual tour of Shiga Prefecture (home of our sister city), and dabbled in Japanese writing with brush and ink. The class closed with an authentic tea ceremony conducted by Mrs. Murakami. The Omi committee hosted master potter Shizuo Tamura from Shiga Prefecture in December. On December 3, Mr. Tamura gave a lecture and demonstration on Shigaraki-yaki pottery, an ancient pottery art form, at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. The committee thanks Ms. Saeko Miyamura, visiting official from the Shiga Prefectural Government for introducing West Michigan to Shigaraki-yaki and Mr. Tamura. The Omihachiman committee continues to organize and present J-Chat, an opportunity to participate in all things Japanese in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. J-Chat is held the third Monday of the month at Schuler’s Books and Music on Alpine.




    The Bielsko-Biala committee started 2008 by sponsoring the annual Epiphany Concert in January held at Sacred Heart parish. This was followed by the annual Polish film event in March held at the Bytwerk Theater in the DeVos Communication Center at Calvin College. Committee members participated in Dzoyski Festival, a project of the Polish Heritage Society on Calder Plaza in May. The Bielsko-Biala committee hosted the 4th International Concert on October 10 at St. Cecilia Music Center. This extremely successful event featured pianist Leszek Bartkiewicz, a Bielsko-Biala native now living in Michigan, who performed a selection of Polish music. Also on the program was Linda Nemec Foster, award-winning local poet, who read a selection of her work based upon her Polish heritage.



    2008 has been an extremely busy year for the Perugia committee with numerous exchanges, starting with a mayoral delegation to Perugia for mini-metro opening celebration in January. The ninth annual “Italian Affair” in March continues to be a popular event and successful fundraiser. In May, the committee awarded two scholarships to local college students for their short-term study at the Universita per Straneri in Perugia. In June committee members participated for the fifth year in the annual Sister City Marketplace in Perugia. This event gives us the opportunity to showcase Grand Rapids’ food and music to over 50,000 international visitors. This was quickly followed by a group that included Rina Sala-Baker, Sharai DeLong and Mark Esterman, wine buyer for Meijer Stores, to visit Umbrian wineries in preparation for the November International Wine and Food Show. Committee members organized the third annual Grand Rapids September Concert at Schulers Books and Music on 28th Street. Founded by the September Foundation in 2002, the September Concert is a series of free concerts organized by individuals, communities and organizations across the country and around the world to fill the skies with music on September 11. The committee continues to facilitate the Pen Pal program between Thornapple Elementary school and the Maria Montessori school in Perugia. Committee members help Thornapple students learn Italian words and to prepare and send letters to their Italian pen pals. This on-going exchange reached new heights through a live web cast in November, when the children were able to see and speak to each other thanks to modern technology. Mayor Renato Locchi, Daniela Borghesi, Perugia’s sister city liaison, and two city council members traveled to Grand Rapids for the opening of the Wines of Perugia booth at the International Wine and Food Show. Their visit included trips to Meijer Gardens, Lake Michigan, Gordon Food Service, and Thornapple Elementary for the live webcast. The Perugia committee also facilitates Club Italia at Schuler’s Books and Music on 28th Street on the first Monday of every month. Club Italia offers a wonderful opportunity to learn and practice the Italian language and culture in an informal and fun atmosphere and the group celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2008.


    Ga District

    The Ga District committee hosted the Annual Ghana Independence Day celebration in March, an event highlighting the history, music and food of our sister city. The committee continued its efforts to support the Culture in the Neighborhood project in Ga District by making a significant donation to the community radio project. Several members of the committee represented Grand Rapids at the U.S. Africa Sister Cities Association Conference in Lansing in July. Committee members sold a custom-designed Ga District calendar and crafts from Ga District to raise funds for their projects.



    Our newest sister city has been busy developing sub-committees in the areas of art, education, health sciences and business to connect with our friends in Zapopan for beneficial exchanges. The Zapopan committee hosted the second annual Pachanga music event at the Orbit Room in May. This was quickly followed by the sister city signing ceremony at Festival Grand Rapids in June. Signing ceremony festivities included a gala event at the JW Marriott and, sponsored by a grant from Alticor, a visiting artist exhibition. The formal sister city relationship between the two cities was completed in late October when a delegation led by Mayor George Heartwell travelled to Zapopan to sign the sister city agreement there.



    Grand Rapids Sister Cities International was represented at the 2008 Ethnic Heritage Festival at the Public Museum thanks to the efforts of several committee members.

    Send comments to, this page was last updated on January 25, 2007.