The Vandalia Sister Cities Story
When Walter Lakin became mayor of Vandalia, Ohio, he realized that something needed to be done to unify the city. During the time he was mayor (1971-1973), he attended a National League of Cities Conference and sat in on a Sister Cities International seminar. He was fascinated by the idea of two cities joining as partners to share common things, exchange cultures, people, students and music. He was instrumental in forming a committee from church, civic and community leaders to pursue a partnership. The idea came to fruition in 1975 when the official partnership with Lichtenfels, West Germany was formalized.
Lichtenfels, Bavaria is located in the rolling hills of central Germany and is approximately the same size as Vandalia. It was founded in the 1600's as the Crossroads of Germany and the gateway to the Bavarian mountains. Originally, the committee favored a somewhat closer foreign city for the partnership, but eventually settled upon Lichtenfels. A more compatible and friendly people could not have been found.
In 1976, Vandalia Sister Cities with only $40 in the treasury welcomed its German friends; a bugle band, and Mayor Hauptmann and his wife. They were hosted by the people of Vandalia and taken on tours of factories and Kings Island Amusement. The Fanfarenzug Drum and Bugle Corps marched in a parade in downtown Dayton. There were many adjustments to be made including the casual American way with one another as well as the different foods and the terrific heat in Ohio in the summer.
The following year, the Lakins and other Vandalians made their first visit to Lichtenfels. The city is known for its basket weaving and flower beds that line the streets and in window boxes.
The visits continued yearly until 1980 when it was decided to exchange every other year instead of every year. We are still making the exchange every other year with the exception of the year 2001, when the September visit had to be cancelled. Many strong friendships have developed among our own people here in Vandalia.
In 1978 Vandalia Sister Cities decided to hold a German Oktoberfest to raise money for hosting their German guest. It was a resounding success and has been held every year since. The money has allowed the group to arrange unusual and interesting visits for our guest. Some money raised from Oktoberfest goes for scholarships, yearly youth exchanges, the high school After Prom, Vandalia food pantry, and other charitable causes.
The entire purpose of the organization is to promote peace. To quote former President Eisenhower who founded Sister Cities International, "You don't go to war with your friends."