Source: StratfordSisterCitiesChorus.com, Waymarking.com
History of Stratford Sister Cities
There are many Cities and Towns around the world with similar names; Stratford is no exception. Some Stratford’s around the world have and continue to establish relationships among the other Cities, Towns and their residents. A group of Stratford Sister Cities had got together in 1984 and began to have some reciprocal interaction.
The two Stratford’s that are closest to each other, Stratford, Ontario and Stratford, Connecticut, have had a long history of cultural, sporting, and social exchanges. Each year exchanges are organized. In 1985, Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, became involved and with their involvement, a reunion has taken place every two years
Sister Cities Organization in CT: The late Hugh Catalano became the chairman for the Sister Cities Organization in CT, overseeing the chorus and the Youth Exchange Program between Ontario and Stratford CT. Grade 6 and Grade 11 student ambassadors, chosen on the basis of merit and scholarship, participated in that cultural exchange opportunity in the 1990s into the year 2002, after which funding became unavailable.
Now: The Sister Cities Organization includes 6 Stratfords in five countries: United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and The United States.
Sister Cities Band and Chorus
1986: Birth of the Official “Stratford Sister Cities Band” whose purpose was musical exchange with the other Stratfords of the world. In 1987 the band traveled to England to perform with the Ontario Pipe Band and the Stratford-Upon-Avon Wind Band. Hugh and Mary Lou Catalano accompanied the band on that trip which marked their long term involvement as promoters, organizers, and supporters of the Sister Cities program.
In 1989: All three bands performed for Stratord, CT’s 350th anniversary to a full house at the Shakespeare Theatre. In 1990 The Sister Cities Band performed at Carnegie Hall and then went on tour to Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland.
The Sister Cities Chorus was born in 1991. Founded by Hugh Catalano and conducted by Wooster Middle School music teacher, Lynn McGilvary, the chorus debuted locally in the spring of 1992. The group traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon that summer and to Stratford, Ontario in the summer of 1993. From 1996 until 2012, Dr. Joe Utterback, Minister of Music at the First Congregational Church, was the chorus’ director. The baton was then passed to Jeffrey Leinen, Choral and Drama Director at Stratford High School who currently holds the position.
The cultural aspect is important to the reunions. Three of the Sister Cities have well known theaters. A concert involving participation from each sister city is an integral part of each reunion. Each sister city asks its residents to billet or provide home stays so that the visitors can experience family living in a private home. This also helps to form lasting relations among the visitors and their hosts.
The reunions do not emphasize commercial relations as the organization is not in that business. There are no formal or other business meetings but there are many social gatherings. The only meeting usually held is to determine the location of the next reunion.
Local and national businesses are usually asked for support in defraying some of the costs involved in each reunion and have been most generous in the past.
Stratford Sister Cities Friendship Garden
This garden is located in Boothe Memorial Park near the rose garden. This friendship garden is dedicated to the following cities:
- Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
- Stratford, Ontario
- Stratford, Prince Edward Island (PEI)
- Stratford, New Zealand
- Stratford, Australia
Each of the six Stratfords has an identical garden which are planted with colorful red, blue and green plants.