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August 31, 2010 > Sister City Festival celebrates diversity and welcomes Liyang

Sister City Festival celebrates diversity and welcomes Liyang

By Shavon Walker

Union City's sixth annual Sister City Festival was held at the Union City Sports Center on Sunday, August 21, 2010. Among others, members of the Union City Lion's Club, council members and a nine-person delegation from Union City's newest sister city of Liyang, China, were in attendance. Guests were greeted by the sounds of the Newark Wadaiko Taiko drummers and treated to a buffet dinner catered by Raja Sweets and Indian Cuisine. Deputy City Manager and Leisure Services Director Tony Acosta hosted the evening's festivities.

The Sister City program was originally created by President Eisenhower, who held a White House summit and asked for people-to-people exchanges. Today, the program includes more than 2,000 cities in 136 different countries. In addition to Liyang, Union City has relationships with Pasay City, Philippines; Santa Rosita, Mexico; Jalandhar, India; and Chiang Rai, Thailand.

The festival was officially opened with a flag ceremony, presided over by Eric Brown, Patrick Wilson, Michael Haskin, Alarsh Dhillon and David Georges of Boy Scout Troop 110. They were assisted by the Union City Police Explorers. Jazleen Serrano, winner of Union City Teen Idol 2010, sang the National Anthem.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations of the United States and Commercial Service, Ro Khanna, was unable to attend but Councilman Manny Fernandez read a letter from him to the festival's attendees. The Deputy Assistant noted that the Sister City program "is one of the most effective means of reaching out and interconnecting with the world." He went on to add that "while cultural and educational exchanges are the paramount themes of programs between sister cities, other specific projects to combat disease, illiteracy, global warming... are also being conducted."

"We felt very welcome, like we were at home. I want to thank the delegation from Liyang for their generosity and kindness," commented Vice Mayor Richard Valle on the Union City delegation's recent trip to Liyang.

Mayor Mark Green thanked the delegation from Liyang stating that he looks forward to the exchange.

"I learned something fascinating. In California, the mayor must live in his elected city. In China, the mayor cannot live in the city he governs. So it's dramatically different to what we are accustomed," stated the Mayor.

"We appreciate the form of the festival," Liyang's Mayor Jinliang Sheng of Liyang said of the event. "This kind of interaction gives each one, each country participating, an understanding of other cultures. Organizing such an event gives impetus to create bonds with other cities."

Videos of all the sister cities were shown followed by traditional dances representing each country. These were performed by the UC Berkeley-based Indian folkloric dance group Cal Bhangra, San Jose-based Ballet Folklorico Mexicano Fuego Nuevo; Steps, Styles and Spotlights, a Filipino dance group; and classical Thai dance group Wat Buddhanusorn from Fremont. The attendees rounded off the festival with "This Land is Your Land" and "America the Beautiful" as a reminder of the common ground between countries.

"The festival was great. For me, this has been another opportunity to come together to develop more harmony and cohesiveness in our community. I want to be part of this forever," stated Union City Human Relations Commissioner Sarabjit Cheema, a member of the Sister City Committee who was clearly proud of the Sister City Festival's success.

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