Two large visiting delegations, one from Hot Springs and one from Hanamaki, Japan, Hot Springs’ sister city, form the highlight of the year-long Hot Springs-Hanamaki 25th Anniversary celebration.
Hot Springs delegation
A 25-member delegation of Hot Springs citizens recently returned from Hanamaki, bringing back memorable experiences of outstanding hospitality, connecting with new friends while renewing older ties, and savoring the culture and history of Japan.
The large delegation, overseen by Sister City Program Executive Director Mary Zunick, included Mayor Pat McCabe; Melinda Baran, who served as the city’s mayor when the original sister city agreement was signed in 1993; former city director Stan Miller, a member of the first delegation visit to Hanamaki even before the sister city agreement was signed; Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts Director Corey Alderdice and board member Caren Dodd; Hot Springs Village representative Paul Bridges; residents who have volunteered as host families; and former Hot Springs National Park Sister City Foundation board members.
The Hot Springs delegation enjoyed a lavish banquet that included prefectural representatives, city leaders, and letters of welcome from the governor and a representative of the U.S. Embassy. Guests were presented with hanten, or Japanese festival jackets. Takuya Onozaki, the artist who recently underwent a month-long artist exchange in Hot Springs, unveiled a large artwork as a gift to Hot Springs. The delegation presented awards to five Hanamaki citizens who provide outstanding support to the program. The group also presented engraved commemorative clocks to Mayor Toichi Ueda and International Exchange Association President Fumiaki Sasaki.
The delegation visited area schools, museums and area attractions, toured Hanamaki Pharmaceutical Company, savored cultural experiences, and viewed a special sister city art gallery exhibit. Mayor McCabe represented the City of Hot Springs by speaking at a local Rotary event; at a dinner with city officials and business leaders; and at Hanamaki City’s official 25th Anniversary Banquet. Highlighting the delegation’s visit was the opportunity to participate in the Hanamaki Matsuri Festival, an elaborate cultural celebration dating back more than 425 years. The festival features opulent, glowing floats; traditional Deer Dancers and other dance groups; and elaborate mikoshi, or shrines, hand carried through the streets to the ancient rhythms of portable drums.
Hanamaki’s 25th anniversary delegation, including Mayor Ueda and IEA President Sasaki, will arrive in Hot Springs on Thursday, October 4. The group will tour Park Elementary School and ASMSA as well as CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs; Baxley Equipment; and Garvan Woodland Gardens. Delegates will have the opportunity to cruise Lake Hamilton; sing in the choir during a Sunday service at First Presbyterian Church; and attend dinner with the combined members of area Rotary clubs. The public is invited to attend a Native American dance performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 6 in the Grand Lobby of the Hot Springs Convention Center. The delegates will be honored with a special banquet that evening.
Sister City exhibit
Throughout the month of October, a special exhibit of photos and artifacts documenting the growth of the Sister City Program through its 25-year history will be on display at the Cultural Affairs Office, 108 Pleasant Street. Also on display will be photographs and writings by Erin Holliday, Erin Holliday, local artist and Executive Director of Emergent Arts, who spent a month in Hanamaki last June as part of the first Sister City Artist Exchange. Exhibit hours will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, October 5 during Gallery Walk. During regular office hours, contact Zunick at 545-6960.