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August 19, 2011 > Sister City Festival

Sister City Festival

By Julie Grabowski

Though the summer days are waning, there is still time for an exotic vacation and the chance to experience another culture. Mexico? Perhaps China or the Philippines? But why stop at one? How about five? Journey across the globe in a single evening as Union City celebrates cultural relations with their 7th annual Sister City Festival.

Established in 1987, Union City's Friends of Sister Cities is an all-volunteer group comprised of 22 individuals, each representing and supporting one of five sister cities. They meet on a monthly basis, and many of the members also bring in additional support from their cultural and/or religious communities. A member of Sister Cities International, the group serves to facilitate relationships between the sister city and their own, bring people together and creating cultural understanding and harmony.

Sister City relations first began after World War II when President Eisenhower proposed a "People-to-People" program, on the idea that if people wanted peace, it should be done on an individual, personal level, leaving the government out of it. He hoped that by people using various ways to learn about each other, it would reduce world tensions and conflict.

When considering possible locations for a sister city connection, the population of ethnic groups in Union City were taken into account, as well as finding a foreign city that shared a common denominator, such as a match in size or population. Union City has five sister cities: Pasay City, Philippines; Santa Rosalia, Mexico; Jalandhar, India; Chiang Rai, Thailand; and Liyang, China.

The public is invited to share in the celebration of culture and friendship on Sunday, August 21 with a dinner, raffle, and cultural entertainment. A buffet will offer a variety of ethnic food from local restaurants including Chow King, Federicos, Gerry's Grill, King Egg Roll, Mexico Lindo, Muskaan, Papillon, Raja Sweets, Thai Kitchen, and Paddy's Coffee House.

Each sister city and their country will be represented by dancers and musicians in a cultural performance. Steps, Styles & Spotlights will present traditional Filipino dancing, Wat Buddanasorn will deliver a Thai performance, and Lisa Performing Arts offers traditional Chinese dance. Enjoy traditional Aztec dance from Ollin Anahuac, an Indian performance from award-winning UC Berkeley troupe Cal Bhangra (, and some Latin spice from Zumba with Heidi.

A selection of items will be raffled off, including purses, school supplies, a backpack, fishing pole, and consumer electronics items.

The Sister City Festival is the group's primary event, but they also serve the community by hosting events in relation to visiting dignitaries from the sister cities, and participate in the organization of the annual Asian American Heritage Festival in Union City. Money raised from the festival goes to support Sister City activities, such as transportation or housing for visitors from other cities and related social functions. While most other countries set aside funds to support visiting groups, the U.S. does not, and all costs are paid by the Friends of Sister Cities. No city or festival money is used to finance member trips to sister cities; all travel is paid for using personal money.

Treat yourself to a bounty of cultural tastes, sights, and sounds without leaving the tri-city area.

Tickets are only $12 per person and may be purchased in advance by calling Pat Gacoscos at (510) 918-7555, or at the door on event night (if not sold out).

For more information on Sister Cities International visit To learn more about local chapters visit, or contact Union City's Friend of Sister Cities chair Pat Gacoscos.

Union City Sister City Festival
Sunday, August 21
5 p.m.
Ruggieri Senior Center
33997 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City
(510) 918-7555
Tickets: $12

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