Have you ever daydreamed of being immersed in a different culture? Maybe learning a new language or tasting traditional food? The Anacortes Sister Cities Association is all about broadening cultural horizons and experiencing “everyday living” with its Sister Cities.
In 1991, six Anacortes residents founded the Anacortes Sister Cities Association (ASCA) and began the diplomatic venture of establishing a relationship with their first Sister City. The process requires each city’s Mayor be willing to create and foster a “broad-based and long-term” partnership with their Sister City and sign an official “Sister-Cities Agreement.” In 1992, Lomonosv, Russia, about twenty-five miles west of St. Petersburg, became its first official Sister City. Four years later, another connection was made with Nikaho, Japan and Sidney, B.C. in Canada. Anacortes has a large community from Croatian decent and its next Sister City, Vela Luka, Croatia, in 2003 was a natural choice. In 2005, the ACSA also established a unique friendship with Comarnic, Romania.
Once the Sister City relationship is established, the cross-cultural learning begins. This often means city-to-city visits. The trips involve sight-seeing and learning about a culture that is often very different than their own. ASCA President Jon Lovric, whose been a member since 2002, said visitors “get the real experience” by staying with local hosts and eating traditional food. This way, a trip to a fellow Sister City is an immersion into culture and customs for students and adults. Students, on both ends, are encouraged to become involved in the student exchange programs and apply for travel funding.
Anacortes residents have visited its fellow Sister Cities, and had Sister Cities visit in return. Each time a guest from a Sister City visits, cultural awareness deepens and is often shared with the rest of the community. Anacortes has been given the opportunity to see performances like Russian folk singers, “Klapa Vela Luka” Croatian singers, “Folklorno Društvo Kumpanija” sword dancers, Romanian folk dancers, Taiko drummers, and Kyudo archers.
A favorite yearly activity is opening day of the Anacortes to Sidney international ferry run. Dozens of Anacortians and ASCA members ride the ferry to honor the friendship with this Sister City. Sidney, being its closest Sister City, allows for celebrations like this continue throughout the year. ASCA members hold banners and flags as they march in the Independence Parade and the Sidney Sparkles Christmas Parade. They participate locally at the Anacortes Fourth of July Parade and the Anacortes Christmas Parade.
Sister Cities International has been networking with cities and their citizen diplomats and volunteers for sixty years. In 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the organization. His goal was to become “a champion for peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world.” Eisenhower believed that “people from different cultures could understand, appreciate, and celebrate their differences while building partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.” Today, there are over 2,100 partnerships in 145 countries and “tens of thousands” volunteers and citizen diplomats.
ASCA is one of sixteen cities that are part of the Sister Cities International program in the state of Washington. Membership is a unique way to show interest in travel and culture. Ultimately, we celebrate the differences between the miles.
For more information visit their website at Anacortes Sister Cities Association.
originally published on April 6th, 2015 by Lara Dunning – updated October 2018