The U.S. sister city program originated in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative. Originally a part of the National League of Cities, Sister Cities International became a separate, nonprofit corporation in 1967, due to the tremendous growth and popularity of the U.S. program.
Sister Cities International creates and strengthens these sister city partnerships in an effort to increase global cooperation, promote cultural understanding, and stimulate economic development. Currently, our Sister Cities are:
The relationship between Rockford and Brovary arose from a meeting with a visiting soccer team from Kyiv. The Kyiv contingent suggested a sister city arrangement with Brovary, a Kyiv suburb of 85,900. The Rockford City Council and Mayor Charles Box made it official in 1995. As a gift to Brovary, a Rockford group traveled to build the first of two playgrounds for Brovary’s children. They did not use wood, because of the risk that it might be stripped to heat homes during the harsh winters. These two projects were the beginning of "Kids Around the World", a Rockford organization that builds playgrounds for children in poverty-stricken and war-torn foreign cities. Rockford and Brovary maintain a strong relationship. Rockford residents send food and medicine, and area doctors visit to donate their services. Brovary’s Mayor toured Rockford; his wife lived in Rockford for six months; their son was married at a Rockford church.
Rockford residents visited Changzhou in 1999 to explore a friendship agreement to foster trade opportunities for both cities. Although more than 2,500 years old, Changzhou is a modern industrial city of more than three million, just a two-hour drive from Shanghai. In October 1999, a Changzhou delegation visited Rockford to sign a Sister Cities agreement with the Rockford City Council. The Chinese delegation toured Bergstrom Inc. (which has a plant in Changzhou), Rockford Products Inc. and Rock Valley College Technical Center. They attended a City Council meeting and had dinner at Cliffbreakers River Restaurant. Rockford delegations have visited Changzhou to explore business exchange relationships.
The Rockford Region has more Swedish-Americans per capita than any other US city. In 2002, as part of Rockford's Sesquicentennial celebration of the arrival of the first Swedish immigrants in 1852, Rockford sought a Sister City relationship in Sweden. The agreement was signed in Borgholm in July 2002 and in Rockford in August 2002. Several exchanges have occurred, and various groups are working on exchanges in art, education, business and religion. Borgholm is the largest town on Öland, an island connected to the Swedish mainland by one of Europe’s longest bridges. As a summer resort area for Scandinavia, the island swells with more than 2.5 million visitors, including artists from all over the world -- drawn by the "midnight sun." Borgholm's top two industries are agriculture and tourism.
Rockford shares many qualities with its Sister City, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Although Cluj-Napoca is more than twice the size of Rockford, both are cultural and industrial centers of their respective regions. Historically, Cluj-Napoca is an ancient city, dating back to before 1100, and is known for food processing, machine building, chemistry, wood, papers and glass processing, porcelain, textiles and construction. It’s home to the Romanian National Theatre, the Romanian Opera and the Hungarian Theatre and Opera. Of special note, Cluj-Napoca is home to Europe’s second most notable Botanical Gardens, just as Rockford is home to two outstanding and nationally recognized gardens, Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden and Anderson Japanese Garden.
The Italian immigration to Rockford began in the 1870s and today the area has a sizable Italian American population. Many notable Rockfordians have ancestral roots in Ferentino, Italy and have maintained close ties with its people for over a century. In 1918, immigrants from this ancient hill town established Rockford’s St. Ambrogio Club in honor of its venerated saint. An official agreement was signed on May 15, 2006 when nine public officials from Ferentino visited Rockford for a week. Ferentino is 45 miles southeast of Rome and dates to the 1st century B.C. It has significant pre-Roman and Roman ruins and monuments, including an ancient market, theater and impressive stone gates. Its major industries are electronics, pharmaceuticals, soaps and foods. Italy’s cultural and arts organization, the Pro Loco Association sponsors several annual events in Ferentino. A link to Rockford, with photos is on the city’s website at www.proloco.ferentino.fr.it.
The humanitarian organizations Central Asia Sharing Aid of Rockford (CASA) and Mercy Charitable Christian Foundation of Kyrgyzstan have established and endowed schools, orphanages, free medical clinics, economic initiatives and other charitable works in Kyrgyzstan. Friends of both ministries organized the sister city initiative which culminated in an agreement being signed in October of 2006. Tokmok has set aside land for a Rockford industrial park, renamed a lake after Rockford, and was the site of a playground built by "Kids Around the World."
Taszar is a small village situated southwest of Budapest. Its airport played key roles, once as a Soviet airfield, and then as the site of multinational and U.S. peacekeeping forces as recently as 2004. The relationship can be summed up by the following comment: "You came as guests," said Karoly Szita, Mayor of Kaposvar to Rear Adm. Goodwin, "but you are leaving as friends." The excellent relations between the U.S. troops and local population, as well as connections with U.S. government officials, led to the formation of a Sister City relationship.