Since 1985, St. Anthony, Minnesota, and Salo, Finland, have enjoyed a long-distance relationship of sorts. “When Eisenhower formalized Sister Cities, the core idea was person-to-person diplomacy,” says Ruth Ann Marks, president of the St. Anthony Sister City Association. “It doesn’t matter your station in life, your education, your politics—it’s everyday people taking on the ennobling role of being diplomats. It’s everyday people co-creating their worlds with their own vision of how they can better the world.”
In celebration of Finland’s 100th birthday, President Sauli Niinistö and First Lady Jenni Haukio traveled to Minnesota, taking part in FinnFest 2017 and the Minnesota Orchestra’s Finland 100 concert. “The trip honored and affirmed those of Finnish descent,” Marks explains. “It was also a way to affirm all of us non-Finns who strive to support Finnish culture and make connections with Finland in whatever means we can.”
To commemorate St. Anthony’s Heritage and Salo’s American connection, the two cities have always collaborated in a variety of ways: politics, the arts, sports and community activities. Most recently, the St. Anthony Civic Orchestra premiered the children’s orchestral piece, “The Lost Melody,” in November 2017. Based on the story by Eeva Tikka and translated by Salo counterparts, the music was written by renowned composer, Olli Kortekangas, and narrated by Kathleen Humphrey. Other past endeavors of the partnership include St. Anthony’s hosting of the Salon Viesti Sports Group in 1992, a student art exchange in 2000 and the opening of Salo Park in 2006.
Despite the cities’ obvious differences—separate continents, time zones, languages—they are more compatible than not, both strongly supporting education and civic engagement as well as having an overall pride and love for their culture. Another notable similarity? Climate. “When Finnish sculptor Sakari Peltola was trying to figure out what type of sculpture he should make for St. Anthony, he found that Minnesotans and Finns both love to talk about the weather,” Marks says. “Thus, he made the Weatherman sculpture.”
Marks believes it’s the discovery of shared truths or realizations that bring them together. And as time goes on, their desire to work together and stay connected keep the relationship between these two cities strong. “These circles of truth may start with small stories and experiences,” she says, “but they are ever-expanding, ever-encompassing.”