In July of 1986, the towns of Rikubetsu, Japan and Lacombe were twinned when a citizens study group of 13 members, including Mayor Minoru Sugita of Rikubetsu, arrived in Lacombe on July 4th, 1986. The formal agreement was made between Sugita and then Mayor Charles Budd of Lacombe.
Since then, students and chaperones from Rikubetsu travel to Lacombe annually to visit their sister-community, learn, tour and get to know the western culture. In turn, students and families of Lacombe also get to learn about their counterparts in Japanese culture.
The Lacombe and District Rikubetsu Friendship Society was formed on May 9th, 1991 and has since organized the visits from the Japanese delegations every September.
In July of this year, the joining of the two communities will celebrate its 30th anniversary, and the Friendship Society is hoping to update a piece of Lacombe in order to show that accomplishment.
Community Services Director Brenda Vaughan presented the request from the Society during Monday’s City council meeting to ask council to consider funding a project that will update the four entrance signs around the City to include a new banner that showcases the relationship between the two communities.
“We did contact Signmasters and they provided us with an estimate of $1,764 and that would cover the banner. (The Friendship Society) is still coming up with the specific writing. That cost is both for the sign and the installation, and we are asking for council’s decision as to what level of participation they would like to offer for this project.”
Many councillors were in support of council participating in this endeavour, especially Councillor Reuben Konnik, who brought the idea to council as representative of the Society.
“I brought this forward on behalf of the Society. We thought, what could we do to celebrate (30 years), and this is what we came up with. I do believe Lethbridge has something similar to this and so we thought that it would be a significant way to recognize that and could be a nice addition to those signs.”
Konnik said the Society is still trying to figure out what phrase to put on the signage, ‘sister-city’ or ‘twin-city’ and Mayor Steve Christie suggested using the word ‘community’ as it describes the two specifically.
Councillor Bill McQuesten was fully in support of the initiative and explained that he is very proud of the work the Society has done and the relationship between the two communities should be showcased.
“I strongly support it because I’m proud of it as an individual and the people who are involved with Rikubetsu, the people who have taken students into their home are proud of it, we need to get the word out because it is a wonderful experience. I think what we need to do is get the word out so others can get involved with the opportunity and I fully support the funding for new signage.”
Councillor Peter Bouwsema said that because drivers will be moving past the signs fairly quickly, he suggested keeping the wording down to a minimum as to not distract the drivers. But he is in full support otherwise.
Council has agreed to participate in the signage process, and the next step for the Society is to come up with an agreeable statement to put on the sign.
The amended entrance signs are expected to be installed this summer.