gmhTODAY 13 gmhToday March April 2017 - Page 85

Written By Robin Shepherd Today, Sister Cities associations can be found in both Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Citizen volunteers in these nonprofit organizations are dedicated to building person-to-person relationships with other cities around the world, primarily through the exchange of cultural, educational, and business ideas and experiences. Over the years, their efforts have been supported and applauded by Gilroy and Morgan Hill city officials. Gilroy Sister Cities Saint-Clar, France Monticelli d’Ongina, Italy Gilroy has six sister cities. Gilroy Sister Cities Association Board member Hugh Smith and his wife Carol have been active in the group since 2005. The Smiths enjoy travel abroad, especially to Japan, and they have hosted international guests in their home for more than 20 years. Hugh provided TODAY with an overview of his group’s activities. “We chose cities of similar population size that had some interests in common with Gilroy, such as our agricultural heritage. Garlic has been an important connection for us, and we’re branching out beyond that. Our sister city relationships are approved by the mayor and the city council. The relation- ships are nurtured by citizens.” Takko, Aomori Prefecture Japan Tecate, Baja California, Mexico gmh Koror, Republic of Palau Angra do Heroísmo, Azores Portugal France In 1985, Gilroy became a sister city to Saint-Clar, France, located in the historic region of Ger (aka Gascony) in south- western France. Ail, or garlic in French parlance, is a major crop there; and like South Santa Clara Valley, Ger is an increasingly popular wine region. “In 2015, we hosted 41 people from Saint-Clar when their citizen’s marching band came to meet and perform for us during the Gilroy Garlic Festival,” Smith said. Over the years, the Garlic Festival has been a focal point for many visits from city officials and delegates from Gilroy’s sister cities in Japan, Portugal and Mexico. “We hold a welcome reception, treat our visitors to a day at the Garlic Festival, and spend a day touring locally, including downtown Gilroy, Gilroy Gardens, the outlets, and our local wineries. We leave one day open so our host families can take their guests on a day trip and enjoy some one-on-one time.” Los Pagayos Marching Band visiting from Saint-Clar, France (2015) Japan Takko is located on Honshu, Japan’s largest island. From Tokyo, it’s a 2.5-hour ride on the bullet train. Takko is known as the garlic capital of Japan and holds an annual Garlic and Beef Festival, which the Smiths and other Gilroy Sister Cities delegates have attended. Every year, Takko hires a Gilroy resident to spend 12 months there as Coordinator of International Relations. Every year, Takko also sends two youth groups to Gilroy. Junior high students visit in the fall and senior high students visit in the winter. They stay with host families who have children of the same age, and attend classes with our students. “During their stay we give them a tour of our city,” Smith said. “The kids really bond with each other, and it’s always an emotional farewell.” Continued on page 87 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN Gilroy hosts visitors from Angra do Heroísmo, Portugal/Azores (2013) MARCH/APRIL 2017 85