Red Wing / Ikata Student Cultural Exchange 2011

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At 3:00 PM on August 4th, eleven smiling faces were greeted at the airport by members of the Red Wing Sister Cities Commission and host family members. This group was the student delegation from our sister city in Ikata, Japan. The delegation of four boys and four girls was lead by chaperone/teachers Masaya Takegami and Reiko Suemitsu. Also accompanying the group was Edina, MN native, Jessamine Jensen, who for the last three years has been the Coordinator of International Relations for the city of Ikata. She acted as interpreter for the group. After an official welcome and introductions, the group split up and went home with their host families.

Ten days of whirlwind activities were planned for our guests. We started with at ceremonial tree planting at the RWSCC Friendship Garden at Colvill Park. This tradition has been taking place for more than a decade and the Red Wing delegation also planted a tree this summer in Ikata's Red Wing Park. This was followed by the Welcome to Red Wing Dinner in the Colvill Courtyard building. The attendees were treated to a demonstration of the art of Taiko drumming. Mrs. Suemitsu and two of her students played two songs on the large freestanding drums. The performance was truly amazing and we hope to post it on this website and possibly on Channel 6. Then all eight students joined Mrs. Suemitsu for a song and dance playing smaller handheld Okinawa style drums. The costuming and choreography were wonderful. After the performance, we sat down to a great American style picnic meal. Following the meal city council president, Ralph Rauterkus, welcomed the group on behalf of the city. RWSCC chairman, Tao Peng, also welcomed the group. Gifts were exchanged and everyone headed home for a much needed rest.

Sunday's big event was the River City Days parade in downtown Red Wing. The students all gathered at Jordan Towers to visit with the residents and change into the traditional dress. The Red Wing and Ikata students walked in the parade handing out special candy treats, fans and small gifts to the spectators along the way. The Ikata students and Mrs. Suemitsu entertained the crowd with their small Taiko drums. It was a day that was enjoyed by all.

On Monday, the group hiked up Barn Bluff and enjoyed the panoramic views. We toured the Red Wing Shoe Store and Museum; many really cool souvenirs were purchased. Lunch was on the scenic rooftop deck of the Indigo Building. That evening the entire group, Red Wing and Ikata students, was introduced to the city council by Red Wing chaperone Chris Walch.

Wednesday was an active morning that started at the YMCA. The students had the opportunity to climb the rock wall, play basketball and volleyball. They were also treated to a private 30 minute Zumba exercise class. The morning was a great success. In the afternoon, we were scheduled to visit the George Corbian farm for a farm tour, unfortunately, we had to cancel that event. That evening the students were treated to a Twins game by the host families.

Friday evening was the Farewell picnic and bonfire. It was hosted by Clare and Tom Larkin at the beautiful Larkin Pottery in Featherstone Township. Prior to dinner, Mayor Dennis Egan presented each student and chaperone with a special gift from the city. We then feasted on shrimp and beef shish-ka-bob, grilled asparagus, salads, and fresh fruit. After dinner, the students had an opportunity to throw a pot on the potter's wheel. They made some very amazing projects. Everyone enjoyed the scenic setting while visiting, playing croquet, tossing the Frisbee, or climbing the windmill tower. As darkness approached, the students came inside to write messages of farewell to each other on personalized message stationary. It truly was a night to remember.

Sunday morning started well before dawn. The host families and commission members met at 5:00 AM to begin the journey to the airport. The Ikata delegation had a 7:55 AM flight to Chicago. The farewells at the airport were bittersweet and many tears were shed. Everyone was happy that the students would be seeing their families again soon but sad that the stay in Red Wing with their "new families" was coming to an end. It was a fantastic ten days that will last a life time in memories, cultural awareness, and the new bonds that were created. This being the mission of the Sister Cities Commission and the Exchange Program.

Days that were not mentioned in this article were filled with activities planned by the host families.

A special word of thanks needs to go out to the following people and businesses that contributed so much to the success of this years exchange:

Treasure Island Resort and Casino
Red Wing Confectionery
Red Wing Arts Association
Red Wing Stoneware Company
Red Wing Pottery Sales, Inc.
Red Wing Golf Club
Mississippi National Golf Links
Indigo Properties Two LLC - Jodi Johnson
YMCA - David Anderson and staff
George and Michael Corbian

Mayor Dennis Egan
Council President Ralph Rauterkus
Council Member Peggy Rehder - city council liaison to the RWSCC
Leanne Knott - city staff liaison to the RWSCC
Teri Swanson - Executive Secretary
Bill Rooney - Public Works
Tao Peng - RWSCC chairperson
Clare Larkin - Commissioner
Ryan West - Commissioner
Linda Dech - Commissioner
Chris Walch - Chaperone to Ikata

Chris and Meg Walch - host family
Brian and Teri Johnson - host family
Peter and Connie Ferrian - host family
Steve and Terri Stegora - host family

Katie Campbell - 2011 Student Delegate to Ikata
Lisa Ferrian - 2011 Student Delegate to Ikata
Hailee Johnson - 2011 Student Delegate to Ikata
Regan McGough - 2011 Student Delegate to Ikata
Emily Stegora - 2011 Student Delegate to Ikata
Hannah Walch - 2011 Student Delegate to Ikata

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