Lawrence rolls out its red carpet this weekend to welcome a delegation from one of its sister cities, Hiratsuka, Japan.
Fifteen delegates from Hiratsuka, led by Mayor Kyoichi Ishikawa, will arrive Sunday afternoon for three days of whirlwind activities. Others in the delegation are members of the Hiratsuka City Council and Hiratsuka's International Friendship Committee.
Lawrence Mayor Shirley Martin-Smith led a local delegation to Hiratsuka in September to participate in ceremonies formalizing the sister city relationship. The visit to Lawrence by the Hiratsuka mayor fulfills an invitation extended during those September ceremonies.
"While we were over there, the activities and events were very formal and very structured. Mayor Ishikawa asked that their visit to Lawrence be much more informal, much more relaxed. We're hoping we can provide that to them," Martin-Smith said.
EVENTS BEGIN at 5:45 p.m. Sunday when the city hosts a dinner buffet for the Japanese guests at the Eldridge Hotel. That will be followed by a public reception, co-hosted by the city and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Eldridge's Crystal Ballroom.
Martin-Smith is encouraging Lawrence residents to attend the reception; reservations can be made by contacting city hall or the chamber offices.
"Most of these council members are small businessmen and farmers," the mayor explained. "They want to be able to meet and talk with Americans who might share similar experiences."
The city and the local "Friends of Hiratsuka" group have arranged for a number of translators to be on hand during the reception to assist communications with the Japanese guests.
On Monday, the Hiratsuka visitors will go to city hall to meet with the Lawrence City Commission. A 10 a.m. ceremony will commemorate the sister city signing held earlier in Hiratsuka.
OTHER MONDAY activities scheduled for the delegates include a meeting with Gov. Mike Hayden, lunch with Kansas University Chancellor Gene Budig, and tours of the KU campus, Lawrence residential areas and local businesses.
On Tuesday morning, the Japanese guests will visit two local public schools and continue their tours at local industries. Optional activities on Tuesday afternoon will include golf at Alvamar Country Club, an agricultural tour and shopping downtown.
The delegates will close out their visit Tuesday night with a tour of the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art and a reception at the museum sponsored by Friends of Hiratsuka.
HIRATSUKA is a city of 250,000 located about 35 miles southwest of Tokyo. A trade center and modern industrial city, Hiratsuka is the home of a number of pharmaceutical, electric and automobile factories.
Lawrence officials said they expect the sister city relationship with Hiratsuka to eventually result in a number of cultural, educational and business exchanges between the two cities.
Lawrence and Eutin, Germany, also share a sister city relationship.