Cyber Sisters: Virtual Signing between Lockport, IL and Asiago, Italy
Has your city been interested in officially establishing a sister city partnership but been unable to schedule the logistics of physically sending or receiving a delegation? Lockport, Illinois instituted their first sister city with Asiago, Italy via Skype on October 3, 2014, allowing them to virtually connect with their new sibling before receiving a future delegation!
In 2004, Patti Fracaro Pastore and Jack Pastore traveled to Asiago to visit family and had such a wonderful experience, they began thinking about creating a sister city relationship to deepen their familial ties. It turns out that the connection to Asiago extended further in the Lockport community than just one family, “While we were there touring the city, I noticed several last names on streets and businesses that were the same as residents of Lockport. It was almost like being back home,” Mrs. Pastore reflected. Seemingly a perfect match, the sister city connection began to snowball with help from the Fracaro family in Italy, Asiago Mayor Roberto Rigoni Stern, Lockport Mayor Steve Streit, and several others in the community and on city council.*
Mrs. Pastore explained that having a joint effort in Lockport and Asiago made the signing run smoothly. With two proactive mayors, the agreement to move forward as sister cities progressed quickly over the past year. In order to finally officiate the partnership, the two cities decided it would be expeditious and make the most financial sense to do a virtual signing first before holding a ceremonial signing during a future delegation trip.
With a strong wireless internet connection and an excited audience, the Skype call was set up on big screens in both cities. Both Mayors read the Partnership Agreement out loud into the camera and then signed their respective papers. Council members from each city along with a large audience of local residents were present at both ceremonies. For Lockport specifically, 40 citizen diplomats came to participate in the historic event.
Information about sister cities spread to the community through word of mouth and local press, and the new program has received an overwhelmingly positive response so far. Mayor Stern plans to visit Lockport in 2015 and the Lockport Park District is putting together a trip to Asiago in 2016, where a ceremonial signing with residents from both cities in attendance will take place. Future programs will include student exchanges, field trips, and trading ideas on technology and commerce, including a potential beer distribution deal.
For cities looking to virtually twin in the future, Mrs. Pastore would recommend contacting city hall to get the ball rolling and trying to connect with proactive volunteers on both sides that will help make the connection happen.
*Mrs. Pastore would like to recognize Michela Rodeghiero, Candy Hrpcha, Ryan Kolalis, Ben Benson, Mayor Streit, Mayor Stern, Jack Pastore, and Patti Pastore for their help in making the Lockport-Asiago sister city partnership a possibility.