Friday, May 18, 2007

Only in Charlotte: Our history and sister cities

Here’s something you don’t see every day: Revolutionary War soldiers shooting a cannon down Tryon Street during the busy uptown lunch hour.

The ground-shaking booms, which re-enactors set off shortly after noon today, were part of the community’s festivities in honor of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the accompanying Mecklenburg Resolves in May 1775. There are still some free events available this weekend for people who want to learn more about this aspect of our local history - see

It was stirring to hear a reading of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (though its validity has been disputed, copies of the reconstructed document exist), watch a re-enactment of the document’s departure for Philadelphia on horseback, and see Mayor Pat McCrory declare "We never want to forget (the signers’) courage and we never want to take for granted the freedom we have today."

People frequently complain that Charlotte has bulldozed too much of its history, but this is one aspect I’m glad to see people want to celebrate.


Earlier this morning I attended another only-in-Charlotte event: A breakfast with visitors from Krefeld, Germany, Charlotte’s sister city. I stopped by because I visited Krefeld in 2005 while on a journalism fellowship. I found it a warmly accommodating place, with many similarities to Charlotte – and many differences too.

During breakfast, I sat at a table with Krefeld architects, a banker, an economics teacher and an ice cream shop owner. They were much like any assemblage you might find in an uptown Charlotte conference room – with slightly different accents.

They commented on Charlotte’s growth, its beauty and its NASCAR (they had visited Lowe’s Motor Speedway). I recall when I visited their city, I was impressed by their plentiful green parks, their shop-filled uptown streets and their devotion to the sports of hockey and soccer.

Krefeld has been our sister city for 22 years, and was the second one we adopted after Arequipa, Peru. Our others include Baoding, China; Voronezh, Russia; Limoges, France; Wroclaw, Poland and Kumani, Ghana.

"In Krefeld, it’s considered good form to have visited Charlotte at least once," that city’s mayor, Gregor Kathstede, said during breakfast.

Wouldn’t it be great if the same was true for Charlotteans? That sister cities list sounds like it’d make a fascinating travel itinerary.

Have you ever visited one of Charlotte’s sister cities? If so, post your impressions here or e-mail me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly is the point/purpose of "sister cities?"

7:00 AM  
Blogger tarhoosier said...

My wife and I have been to Limoges several times. Once accompanying a group of high school students on an exchange, and other times as gereral tourists. More important, we have hosted Limogeauds (Limoges citizens) five times and the effect is enlightening. They ask questions about how we Charlotteans and US citizens do or say such a thing and most often the answer from me is "I have no idea." I learn as much about myself and my fellow citizens from such hosting opportunities as I do when I visit with them on their turf.
There are cetainly many times more people in Limoges who speak English than French speakers in Charlotte, a pity for us.
Limoges is the same population compared to that of France as Charlotte is to the U. S. Each is a regional center for trade and transportation and each has a tradition of pottery/ceramics. Limoges has a population trending downward, which I believe is also true of Krefeld. Charlotte quite the other trend.
Sister cities (jumelles-twin cities, in French) provide immediate opportunties for interaction for citizens, students, and travelers outside of the normal business and trade connections. A worthy,goodley human scale enterprise.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for such an eloquent response about the importance of one-on-one interaction between citizens of Charlotte and of our sister cities. The Sister Cities organization here in Charlotte is founded on the idea of citizen diplomacy, and we are partnered with seven cities around the world: Krefeld and Limoges; Arequipa, Peru; Baoding, China; Voronezh, Russia; Wroclaw, Poland; and Kumasi, Ghana. The first sister city, Arequipa, Peru, was partnered with Charlotte in 1962. In the 45 years since then, we have had numerous educational, cultural, civic, governmental and business exchanges with Arequipa and with each of the other sister cities. We now have exchange programs either planned or in place with all seven of our sister cities, and an active calendar of events coming up this fall. For more information about Charlotte Sister Cities, please visit our website,, or call us at 704-333-3399 -- Alina MacNichol, Executive Director

11:05 AM  

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