Lindsay has long been known as the “Friendly City” and this Saturday it will celebrate one of its longest and most significant friendships during the 81st annual Orange Blossom Festival (OBF).
The Lindsay/Ono City Sister City Program is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The Sister City Program was started in 1973 as a cultural exchange between the City of Lindsay and Ono City, Japan. Over the years more than 400 student, teachers, and community members have visited Ono City. In return, more than 400 Japanese citizens have visited Lindsay to see our beautiful town and the surrounding area, including Yosemite and Sequoia Parks.
Sister City Committee Chair Jim Kliegl said a small delegation from Ono City, Japan will arrive in Lindsay tomorrow, April 18 and stay through the festival weekend on Sunday, April 21. The delegation will consist of Ono’s Mayor Tsutomu Horai, Chairman of the City Council Shyuzo Fujimoto, the Chairman of their Sister City Committee Keichi Nakamura, City Official Hideaki Shimmen, travel agent Matsuyama Takashi and interpreter Shoko Fujita. Horai will also preside over the OBF Parade as this year’s Grand Marshal.
The delegates have a full itinerary for Saturday, April 20. Beginning at 1:30 p.m., the Sister City Committee will dedicate the round mosaic stamped in concrete and raise four flags at the “Friendship Area” on the north side of the park along the new street which has been named “Ono City Parkway.” The street name was approved by the Lindsay City Council in July 2012. Surrounding the mosaic will be four flagpoles which will fly the flags of the United States, Japan, California, and Ono City. A brick bench monument will also be built in the second phase of the project, which was approved by the City Council in February.
The flag raising ceremony will be done in accordance with official flag-raising protocols. A short dedication speech will be made by Committee Chair Jim Kliegl. The Mayor of Ono City and the Mayor of Lindsay have also been invited to say a few words.
In the evening of April 20 a banquet will be held celebrat he 40-year friendship in the Lindsay Wellness Center just a half block down the parkway. Alan Ishida has been invited to attend and deliver a proclamation from the Tulare County Board of Supervisors in honor of the occasion. Lindsay’s Mayor, Ramona Padilla, will present a proclamation to Mayor Horai. Also in attendance will be the Deputy Consul General Nobuhiro Watanabe and Vice Consul Kei Hagiwar of the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco.
Former Lindsay Mayor Val Saucedo said he traveled on behalf of the city to Ono, Japan through the Lindsay-Ono Sister City program for the 20th anniversary in 1992. He said the event was a huge honor and that he expected to see every member of the City Council present at the dinner.
“The fact they are sending someone from their State Department is very important,” Saucedo said. “My anticipation and my hope that we will have this program for a long time.”
Current Lindsay/Ono Sister City Committee Board Members are: Jim Kliegl, Chair; Starla Whitehair, Vice-Chair; Teresa Saucedo, Secretary; Richard Neilson, Treasurer; Lily Kaku, Ambassadress Extraordinaire; Wendy Jay, Member; Jann McGuire, Member; Suzanna Ibarra, Member; and Philip LoBue, Auditor. Kliegl said he will be among a Lindsay delegration to visit Ono, Japan in August.
History of the Ono City Sister City Program
The history of the bicultural partnership started off with a mutual friend, was questioned by Japanese media and ultimately celebrated by both parties thanks to a charismatic Japanese mayor who made everyone feel like they were the center of attention.
Neal D. Barker, the inaugural chairman of Lindsay’s Sister City Committee, wrote the following history in a 1979 letter to his Japanese counterpart Kijuro Yoshida. Barker resigned as chairman in 1976.
While Lindsay’s 2013 Orange Blossom Festival is the 40th anniversary of the formation of the partnership in the spring of 1973, the story of the Lindsay – Ono Sister City Program actually began in the fall of 1971.
The International Relations committee of the Lindsay Kiwanis Club was trying to determine a suitable service project in which both the committee and the club as a whole could become involved. Neal Barker suggested the possibility of a Sister City and Tom Shimasaki suggested some city in Japan.
Tom Shimasaki got in touch with Serio Takahara in Tokyo after contacting the Visalia Kiwanis Club. Mr. Takahara had formerly lived in Visalia and attended Sequoia Junior College (now College of the Sequoias) before returning to Tokyo. He had been instrumental in lining up Mikki City to form a relationship with Visalia. He was also the one to suggest Ono City for Lindsay as he knew the Mayor who had already expressed an interest in pursuing the matter further.
“We knew nothing about Ono City – its size, location, industry, or people – only that their Mayor was interested in working with us,” Baker wrote.
It so happened that Barker was scheduled to fly to Seoul, Korea with a planeload of dairy cattle being shipped by Heifer Project International as gifts to people in need. He volunteered to take his wife, Rhoda, and visit Ono City, Japan as soon as his assignment in Korea was complete. They arrived in Tokyo on June 12, where they were meet by Mr. Takahara and Mr. Shigehiro Nakamura. Mr. Nakamura was a former friend of the Barker’s while he was attending Lindsay High School. Shortly after graduation he returned to Tokyo and later went to work for the Nishitetsu Travel and Aircargo Service.
The Barkers attended a special meeting of civic and city leaders held in the Ono City Hall. An interpreter explained that on May 19, 1972 the Ono City Council Administrative Committee had passed a resolution authorizing the Mayor to proceed with the necessary steps in laying the groundwork for a Sister City program with Lindsay. At the next regular Council meeting this was approved by the entire Ono City Council of some 100 members.
“One question that was repeatedly asked of us by members of the Japanese press, was why Lindsay a city of 6,500 population was interested in joining with Ono City, whose population was about 40,000,” Barker wrote. “Apparently these reporters felt that Lindsay was seeking some economic gain by the relationship.”
Barker repeated his statements several times before convincing them that Lindsay’s main purpose was to explore the possibility of a Sister-City relationship to help promote peace and understanding between our two countries as well as our two communities.
On July 17, 1972 the Lindsay City Council unanimously authorized Resolution #1431 to form a Sister City relationship with Ono City, Japan. As a result of this action, Mayor ReDoy Kiesz and his wife made a trip to Ono City to carry the charter papers for both Mayors to sign thereby officially establishing the relationship. On Feb. 17, 1973 the charter was signed by both mayors Kiesz and Hayashi and the Sister City relationship had its formal beginning.
Ono City’s first glimpse of its smaller Sister City was during the 1974 Orange Blossom Festival. Ono City Mayor Sachio Hayashi and his wife arrived in April 1974 as the guests of honor for the Festival. Barker wrote that Hayashi was interested in everyone and in every event that took place in the city.
“Ono City could not have sent a better ambassador of good will as Mayor Hayashi created tremendous relationship wherever he went through his friendly outgoing personality, his sincerity, and enthusiasm,” Barker wrote.
At the official greeting ceremony the Lindsay High School Band played for him, and later he got to see them perform in the Orange Blossom Festival Parade. He then invited for the whole band to come to Ono City to play at the dedication ceremony of the new Civic Center on April 10, 1974.
To fulfill this invitation proved to be a major community project. The members of the Sister City Board of Directors pledged the youth in the band that they would raise one half of the total travel expense to go to Japan for each member of the band who went. Chaperones and adults in attendance would each pay their own way. This project required the raising of $30,000. In about 3 months time, band students worked with the community in helping to make the project go.
“The work and involvement in this little town of 6,000 people was something to behold and a tremendous feeling of friendship began to grow among the people as they got better acquainted with each other during the fund raising project,” Barker wrote.
About 78 students and 38 adults made the trip to Ono City in April 1974. All in all the trip provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of those who went. Many of the students had never been in an airplane before and many had never journeyed much more than fifty miles from Lindsay. This 6,000-mile flight over the vast Pacific Ocean was almost beyond their comprehension.
“Our students were taken into host families and treated as though they were their own children; and the adults were hosted in a similar manner,” Barker wrote. “The love and friendship exhibited made such an impression that when it came time to depart for California – no one wanted to leave. Everyone was in tears.”
In August of 1974 a group of 81 citizens from Ono City made the trip to Lindsay for a return visit. Mr. Tanaka and his wife were the group leaders and they spent a week in Lindsay during one of the hottest summers in 20 years with temperatures up to 108 Fahrenheit.
“Once again no one wanted to leave when it came time to return to Japan,” Barker wrote. “The bonds of friendship and good will were once more strongly reestablished.”
In 1978, it was mutually decided to send exchange students on every-other year basis. Lindsay students will go to Ono City on even numbered year basis. Again much credit be given to the school superintendents of both cities together with the school principals for their co-operative in preparing so many youth for participation both ways. In addition faculty members from both cities have acted as chaperones on all trips involving youth.
“All of us in Lindsay who have spent so many hours in the development of this program feel that it has been well worth the time and expense invested,” Barker wrote. “We have the feeling we have been instrumental in laying the stepping stones to peace and understanding in the future.”
In addition to the initial visit by the Lindsay High School Band and its contingent of chaperones, Lindsay has had small exchange groups back and forth each year as agreed upon. Since then there has been a continuing student exchange with four or five Lindsay youth going to Ono City in late June or mid July each year for three to four week periods.
Lindsay enjoyed the Kashima twins – Jun and Kou – When they came to spend a year in Lindsay and to attend and graduate from Lindsay High School. They were excellent students and loved by all. Keiko Kobayashi came to attend University in California and Anfo Konzo to do the same in Washington and California. Coday Noel’s family was his host family for his first year in Lindsay. Masaki Kobayashi was a guest at Barker’s own home from late August of 1979 until the end of the next school year in June 1980.
“We have not tried to go into too much detail regarding all of the people who have been involved in making this relationship a success; nor have we in any way been able to list and evaluate all of the individual personal relationships established, the friendships made, the knowledge gained, and the feeling expressed. Suffice it to say that in so far as Lindsay is concerned the entire program has worked out far beyond our original dreams, and has a great potential in the years to come. We are very happy about it all,” Barker concluded.