Three decades after Fayetteville formally became a Sister City with Saint-Avold, France, the relationship is still going strong.
A delegation from Saint-Avold is visiting Fayetteville this this week, and on Monday — as a symbol of the relationship’s endurance — Mayor Mitch Colvin presented his Saint-Avold counterpart, René Steiner, with a key to the city at the Fayetteville City Council meeting.
Colvin said the key is “the highest award” Fayetteville can offer.
Speaking in French, Steiner accepted the token, noting he is proud of the relationship between the two cities and all they’ve accomplished together over the decades. A translator helped get his message to the audience and council.
“It's very symbolic,” Steiner said, referring to the key. “It's really important for us. It's in recognition of the friendship that Saint-Avold and Fayetteville have had for a very long time, and that means a lot to (me).”
Steiner added that Fayetteville and Saint-Avold, as well as the United States and France, have a “rich history” that is encapsulated by the Lorraine American Cemetery. The cemetery, located in Saint-Avold, is the largest World War II cemetery for fallen American soldiers in Europe
“Thank you so much for the sacrifice of the American people that have liberated the French people,” Steiner said. “Thank you so much for everything you continue to do to uphold the friendship between our two countries.”
Kris Johnson, president of the Fayetteville-Saint-Avold Friendship Alliance, an independent organization that manages the Sister City program for Fayetteville, said the relationship began on Sept. 27, 1993.
“Over the years, there's been many cultural exchanges, and we've looked to expand that to both business exchanges and educational exchanges,” Johnson said, “which is one thing that we're excited about working on.”
Johnson also expressed appreciation for Saint-Avold’s continued maintenance of the graves at Lorraine American Cemetery, which includes the graves of 22 North Carolinians.
“It is American soil, so it is managed by the American Battlefields and Works Commission,” Johnson said. “However, the people of Saint-Avold continue to honor our dead, and they appreciate the sacrifices that those service members made on behalf of their freedom and for ours.”
Saint-Avold’s weeklong celebration will continue with the unveiling of a street sign to rename Walter Street as Saint-Avold Avenue. The ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Hillsboro and Walter streets.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the City Council chose Richard King to serve on the Public Works Commission. His four-year term will begin Oct. 1.
The next council meeting, a work session, is at 5 p.m. Oct. 2.
Contact Evey Weisblat at email@example.com or 216-527-3608.