by guest blogger Carleton Place Sister City Committee chair Jeff Maguire
Two Carleton Place secondary school students and their adult chaperones flew home from Tennessee recently, successfully completing the sixth annual ‘Sister Cities Student Exchange’ involving the Eastern Ontario town and its American sister city of Franklin.
The latest visit to the Tennessee city of 63,000, located 15 miles south of Nashville the world’s country music capital, means 17 secondary school students from Carleton Place have now experienced the benefits of the exchange program which began in May 2006.
Carleton Place and Franklin have been formally linked since January 2005. Carleton Place is also twinned with the village of Comrie, Scotland. The 20th anniversary of that linkage will be marked Aug. 1, 2012. Plans are already in the works to celebrate the special anniversary.
Since connecting with Carleton Place in 2005 the City of Franklin, an historic community in Middle Tennessee, has also established a Sister City relationship with County Laois in the Republic of Ireland. The communities are among just 25 Canadian and American centres who have established sister city relationships.
Last August the Carleton Place Sister City Committee, which sponsors and organizes the student program locally, launched the first-ever student exchange involving Comrie, a picturesque village in the Perthshire Region of Scotland. The venture was a complete success!
The next program with Comrie is planned for the summer of 2012 to coincide with the 20th anniversary observances. It is anticipated the Carleton Place-Comrie student exchange will take place every two years, mainly due to the higher cost of overseas travel.
The sixth annual Carleton Place student exchange visit to Franklin took place Aug. 14-21. The dates were changed this year at the request of the host Franklin and Williamson County Sister City Board. Secondary school students in the state returned to classes Aug. 10 following the spring and summer vacation.
“They asked if we could schedule a little earlier this year because it is easier to have our kids there early in the school year, before they (Franklin students) get too deeply involved in their course of study,” explains Carleton Place committee chair Jeff Maguire.
He and his wife Kathleen, who is also a member of the Carleton Place committee, were the chaperones for this year’s visit to Tennessee.
In the recent past the Canadian contingent has visited Franklin at the end of August, returning the Sunday before Labour Day.
“It worked out very well this year and I’m sure we’ll continue this pattern in future,” Maguire says. “We have already decided to lengthen future exchanges from seven to 10 days. That is based on the feedback we have received in recent times.”
The 2011 Carleton Place leg of the highly successful exchange program was held from May 25-June 1. Despite some wet weather, which impacted planned activities early in the visit, the local program was again hailed as a success.
During their stay in the American south the Canadian teenagers had a taste of what school is like in Tennessee.
“Education is the first priority in terms of the exchange program,” Maguire notes. “Culture and history are also important elements.”
He says the exchange is predicated on giving everyone involved insight into the respective communities, including the school systems, as well as to acquaint them with life in general in the neighbouring countries.
The program is a joint initiative of the Sister City Committees in both centres, with support from local councils, administration and secondary schools.
“We were only able to achieve two matches this year which is less than the four (students) we aim for,” Maguire says.
Maguire stresses the program does not cost local taxpayers much money.
“Our (annual) stipend from the town is minimal and is intended only to extend the usual courtesies to special guests from our sister communities. The small amount of money involved wouldn’t begin to pay for the student exchange.
“The vast majority of the (operating) budget is raised by our committee volunteers during special events we hold during the year,” the chair underlines.
The students themselves are also responsible for part of their flight and they work on behalf of the committee at special (fundraising) events during the year.
This year’s Carleton Place participants were Alyssa Pinder-Moss, who attended Notre Dame Catholic High School during the past school year and Toni Gallo, a Carleton Place High School student. They were paired with Ginger Reaves a student at Brentwood High School and Brittany Faulman who attends Franklin High School.
After arriving at Nashville airport Sunday the visitors were driven to nearby Franklin where they were welcomed during a reception held at the home of Patricia Kriebel and her husband Robert. Mrs. Kriebel is vice-president of the Franklin board.
The host parents for the week were among those in attendance. They were Kyle and Katherine Faulman of Franklin and Norman and Susan Reaves of Brentwood.
On Monday (Aug. 15) the students spent half a day in class. Lunch was at famous Puckett’s Restaurant. The afternoon was reserved for a guided tour of historic downtown Franklin, including Main Street which bears a striking resemblance to Bridge St. in Carleton Place. The tour was conducted by representatives of the Williamson County Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Tuesday the group was taken to nearby Nashville for a tour of the city which, besides being the world’s country music capital, is also the capital of the State of Tennessee. Activities in the city included a self-guided tour of Vanderbilt University and a visit to the “Parthenon”, a built to scale replica of the original historic structure in Athens, Greece.
The Canadians also visited the Country Music Hall of Fame before enjoying lunch at Big River, a restaurant on Broadway in Nashville, overlooking the Cumberland River.
The afternoon included a visit to some of the many souvenir shops and Honky Tonks which help add to the atmosphere in “Music City USA”.
The evening was reserved for dinner and dancing at the famous Wildhorse Saloon in the Tennessee capital. The young people were joined by their American twins for the evening activities.
Wednesday included another half day at school for the students. In the afternoon there was a visit to the Factory, a unique shopping facility in Franklin and a tour of O’More College of Design, a local fine arts institution.
Thursday opened with breakfast at Meridee’s, another outstanding restaurant in downtown Franklin. That was followed by a tour of Carnton Plantation. The property and mansion was the scene of fierce fighting during the second ‘Battle of Franklin’ on Nov. 30, 1864, late in the American Civil War (1861-1865). The mansion itself was turned into a Confederate hospital and the last patient wasn’t released until six months after the battle.
The story surrounding the carefully preserved mansion and its former owners, the McGavock family, is fascinating. A cemetery adjacent to the sprawling home contains the remains of nearly 1,500 Confederate (Rebel) troops killed during the battle. The McGavock family plot is located beside the war cemetery.
A tour of Harlinsdale Farms in Franklin, which features Tennessee’s walking horse tradition, was followed by lunch at a restaurant in The Factory complex. In the afternoon the Canadian girls, who are both equestrians, were treated to horseback riding at Tap Root Farm just outside Franklin. Dinner was with the host families but the busy day ended with an evening ghost tour of downtown Franklin involving all of the students and their chaperones.
The Friday was reserved for a full day in school for the Canadian students and their American “twins.” In terms of the host students, they do not miss classes. The exchange program is not a holiday despite the requisite social activities. Therefore Franklin students won’t miss much time in the classroom, despite hosting their Carleton Place guests.
Also on Friday the Maguire’s were treated to a trip to tiny Lynchburg (population 361) in southern Tennessee. Mike Thompson, who chairs the Carleton Place twinning on behalf of the Franklin board, took the chaperones to Lynchburg where they toured the famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery. They also enjoyed lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, another Lynchburg institution!
The final full day of the exchange was Saturday, Aug. 20. The host families connected to take all of the girls to Chattanooga, Tennessee where they visited Rock City, located atop famous Lookout Mountain and other attractions.
Saturday night the chaperones were the guests of honour at a farewell dinner held at Zolo’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Franklin.
On Sunday afternoon, Aug. 21 Carleton Place visitors were driven to Nashville Airport where, following sad farewells, they embarked for the long flight back to Ottawa, via Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Carleton Place-Franklin student exchange will continue next spring when the next delegation of Tennessee visitors comes to Canada.
The Carleton Place organizing committee is actively working to raise the funds needed for future exchange visits to the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
The committee hosted the fourth ‘Wine’d Around Downtown’ event as a fundraiser for the program on May 28, during the time the Franklin delegation was visiting Carleton Place.
On Saturday, July 30 the local committee staged a successful fundraising barbecue, sponsored by Century 21 Real Estate, during the annual Bridge Street Bazaar in downtown Carleton Place.
Saturday, Sept. 17 the committee is organizing a Tennessee-style tail-gate party to help launch Carleton Place Canadians’ third season in the Central Canada Hockey League Tier 1 Junior A. Watch for details in future issues of the EMC!
On Saturday, Sept. 24 the fifth annual ‘Heritage Ball’, which has now become the group’s main fundraiser, will be staged in the historic Carleton Place Town Hall Auditorium. This year’s theme is “Hurrah for Hollywood”. Tickets are now on sale at the Town Hall information desk or from any committee member.
It is expected representatives from Franklin will be in attendance at next month’s Heritage Ball.