Tyler is rolling out the red carpet to welcome a special delegation from Yachiyo City, Japan, arriving this week to celebrate a 20-year friendship between the two cities.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes over the past 20 years,” Tyler Sister Cities President Pat Johns, a longtime member, said. “It’s going to be an exciting and busy time.”
The delegation is expected to arrive around 9 a.m. Wednesday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and spend the day sightseeing in Fort Worth before making their way to Tyler.
Thursday begins with Mayor Barbara Bass and Yachiyo Mayor Toshiro Toyoda kicking off a two-hour meeting with local officials at Tyler City Hall, followed by visits to The University of Texas at Tyler, University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler and FRESH by Brookshire’s.
A special 20th anniversary celebration dinner is set for 6 p.m. at Hollytree Country Club, featuring remarks from longtime Sister Cities participants from both cities with entertainment provided by Apache Bells and Harmony and Understanding from Tyler Junior College.
Organizers said they are excited students are participating in the visit, which usually includes only adults.
“The teenagers are going to have their own activities,” Ms. Johns said. “They are going to be at Grace (Community High School) on Friday and that night, attend the Grace-Gorman football game and then stay with a family overnight.”
Activities are designed to give the students a glimpse of American life, organizers said.
On Saturday, some of the delegation is tapped to participate in the Texas Rose Festival parade, followed by an exhibition at the Tyler fire training facility and a Texas barbeque at a private home in Whitehouse.
Opportunities for rest and relaxation are planned for Sunday, including playing golf at The Cascades, shopping at Broadway Square Mall and paying visits to local homes before the delegation leaves on Monday.
Home visits have become a favorite activity of the visitors, who appreciate the opportunity to learn about how Americans and their homes.
The enduring relationship between the city and Yachiyo represents the longest partnership between Tyler and its Sister Cities, which also includes communities in Poland, Chile and Mexico.
The union between the two cities took root in 1991 when the late Dr. George Hamm, former president of The University of Texas at Tyler, and his wife visited Yachiyo to consider the feasibility of starting a partnership. The visit was returned a few months later when a group from Japan made a first visit to Tyler, officials said.
In May, 1992, Yachiyo’s former mayor, Kazuhira Nakamura, brought a 24-person delegation to Tyler for the actual twinning ceremony, when Mrs. Ina Davidson was president of Tyler Sister Cities, Ms. Johns said.
By August 1992, Mayor Smith Reynolds and Sister City president, Norman Shtofman, led a 34-member delegation for a twinning ceremony in Yachiyo.
Longtime member Betty Bower said earlier more than 20 young women from the Tyler area have gone overseas to work in the Yachiyo school system, helping teach English to students.
During their time overseas, the teachers had opportunities to learn the customs and build friendships, Ms. Bower said.
Other exchanges have unfolded in Tyler, including twice welcoming the Yachiyo City Youth Choir, which has more than 65 members.
Sister Cities members said the exchanges help fulfill President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1956 vision to create lifelong friendships through person-to-person “citizen diplomacy.”
Tyler Sister Cities is part of Sister Cities International, a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network created by the former president.