By Kevin Kelley
Sister Cities International helps communities pair up to promote cultural, educational, informational and trade exchanges. Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough has said he hopes his community’s sister city relationships promote tourism as well.
Visits to Westlake’s first sister city of Tralee, Ireland, can be difficult, given that the Irish community is 3,342 miles away, with an ocean in between.
Traveling to Westlake’s second sister city of Kingsville, Ontario, is less difficult. Lake Erie lies in between, but ferry service between Sandusky and Kingsville, by way of Pelee Island, is available during part of the year.
One can also drive to Kingsville, past Toledo and Detroit, to the southwest Ontario city. Clough and his wife, Virginia, will make the three-and-a-half-hour trip next month to attend Kingsville’s 43rd annual Migration Festival.
The festival, traditionally held the third weekend of October, celebrates the legacy of aviary conservation begun by Kingsville’s most famous son, Jack Miner.
Miner is the key to the connection between Westlake and Kingsville. Born in 1865 when Westlake was known as Dover, Miner’s family moved to Ontario when he was 13. He created a bird sanctuary on his farm and was among the first to use banding to track migratory waterfowl. Today the 400-acre sanctuary is a major tourist attraction in Kingsville. Clough plans on attending the festival’s opening ceremonies Oct. 19 at the sanctuary. The next day, the mayor will ride in a parade through Kingsville’s downtown.
Clough has been invited to attend The Queen’s Tea, a small reception honoring Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, on Oct. 20. Later that day at a reception at the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary, Clough and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos will sign the documents of the sister city agreement. Santos also will give the mayor and his wife a personal tour of the city.
“I’m anxious to go there,” Clough told West Life.
The mayor said when people develop one-on-one relationships, they identify with each other and are more likely to pursue mutually beneficial opportunities.
“The whole purpose (of the sister city relationship) is to promote some tourism,” Clough said. He also hopes the leaders of the two cities will share ideas on how to better serve their respective residents and develop economic activities.
Santos, who visited Westlake in 2011, told West Life the migration festival is the big event of the year for his community.
“It’s a big part of our culture,” the Kingsville mayor said in a phone interview.
The parade attracts people to the downtown district, Santos said, and associated theater productions bring 600 to 800 people per show.
“It helps fill our restaurants and certainly our shows with visitors,” Santos said of the migration festival and related events, which include a woodcarving show and youth duck-calling contest.
Kingsville’s fire department, made up of volunteers except for the chief and deputy chief, are hoping to share ideas and best practices with the Westlake Fire Department, Santos said.
“It’s an opportunity to offer an exchange back and forth,” the mayor said.
Brett Luengo, the Westlake resident who helped set up the sister city agreement with Tralee, will also be attending the migration festival in Kingsville.
“It’s a chance for us to learn a little more about Jack Miner,” Luengo said of the conservationist who died in 1944 at the age of 79. “It’s a nice time of year to go visit up there.”
Kingsville is seeking to develop economically, Luengo said, adding that Westlake’s successful growth template of recent decades may be of help to them.
“They have a lot of land they’re looking to develop in the next 10 years or so,” Luengo told West Life.
Clough, Santos and Luengo all said they can envision groups of residents from each city planning trips to the other in the future.