Starting this weekend, Lacombe will play host to friends from the other side of the world when the students and chaperones from Rikubetsu, Japan arrive for their annual visit on Sept. 20th.
Marcia Neufeld, president of the Lacombe and District Rikubetsu Friendship Society, said that while these visits only last a few days, the impact they make on the community is substantial.
“It’s hard to put in words, but it’s like a family,” she said.
“They’re only here for a short period of time but when it comes to the morning that they leave, we’re all in tears because we have grown so close.”
Neufeld got involved with the Lacombe and District Rikubetsu Friendship Society about 12 years ago through her son who was studying Japanese in school and wanted to be a host for the Japanese delegation which was visiting that year.
There is a great exchange of culture that takes place during the visits from Rikubetsu, she added.
“You become long-time friends,” said Neufeld, adding that the cultural exchange is a positive thing for anyone to have. “I think it’s a good experience to have some other culture in your home.”
This year, about 20 students in Grade 8 will be visiting from Rikubetsu.
While the visitors are here, from Sept. 20th – 24th, they will participate in a number of activities.
After a welcome luncheon when the students and chaperones arrive, the students are given a day or so to get acquainted with their host families.
Afterwards, visitors will enjoy a tour around Lacombe and will even get a chance to meet the mayor and councillors of Lacombe during Monday’s council meeting.
There will be opportunity for the delegation to experience a bit more of Alberta as well on Tuesday with a visit to the Royal Tyrell Museum near Drumheller.
On the day before the delegation leaves, a potluck farewell supper will be held for the visitors and their host families.
During the evening, the Japanese students will perform a bit of a cultural display for those in attendance, demonstrating Japanese crafts like origami or martial arts.
Neufeld said the purpose of the tours and activities during the visit is to show what Lacombe has to offer and to give the delegation a bit of an idea what daily life is like here.
She also mentioned the Society is always looking for people in the community to come out to get involved with the friendship society.
“We encourage people to come so they can learn more about our twin city,” said Neufeld.
Residents of Lacombe also participate in occasional visits to Rikubetsu, said Neufeld, but not as often. She added the Society tries to send a delegation whenever there is a group interested in going but the last visit was about three years ago.
Lacombe’s twinning agreement with Rikubetsu was formalized in 1986, but visits between the two communities actually began a few years before. Lacombe and District Rikubetsu Friendship Society was formed a few years later in May of 1991.
Outside of the annual visit from Rikubetsu, the Rikubetsu Friendship Society has a number of events throughout the year that focus around sharing some Japanese culture with Lacombe.
Past events have included Ikebana flower workshops and Kito no Taiko Drummer performances, said Neufeld.
She added this year the Society will also be holding a Japanese tea ceremony as part of the Lacombe Culture and Harvest Festival.
To learn more about the Japanese exchange trip or the Rikubetsu Friendship Society, call Marcia Neufeld at 403-782-4051 or 403-505-9561 or Kelly Holyoak at 403-782-9932 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.