Of Minneapolis’ 11 sister city relationships, Kuopio is the second longest, and the 40th anniversary was honored in August 2013 when a nine-member delegation from the Twin Cities took part in a festival celebration in Kuopio.
The history of the partnership dates back to June 30, 1972, when Kuopio mayor Eino Luukkonen sent a letter to Minneapolis mayor Charles Stenvig, informing him that the Kuopio Municipal Council had named Minneapolis one of its “friendship towns.”
As the new Sister City International program grew in the U.S., conversations took place in Minneapolis about forming sister city relationships and, specifically, in response to Mayor Luukkonen’s letter. On June 1, 1973, a letter from Minneapolis city clerk Lyall Schwarzkopf invited Kuopio to become an official sister city to Minneapolis, following the Minneapolis City Council decision on May 25. On the history page, read about the projects that have brought the two cities together in the 40 years that have followed.
Milestones in the Minneaoplis and Kuopio sister cities
Activities during the first decade (1970s) included an exchange of artwork, and a focus on Finland during the 1980 Aquatennial. Major projects since then have included the following:
Reunion of Sisters
From 1984-1987, Minneapolis and Kuopio participated in the Reunion of Sisters, a project which saw the exchange of Finnish and American women (and men) at major conferences in the Twin Cities and Finland (Helsinki and Kuopio), devoted to a range of interdisciplinary topics. More than 50 people from Kuopio attended the meeting at the University of Minnesota in the summer of 1986, and 120 Americans visited Kuopio the following year. Among them was Minneapolis Councilwoman Carol Johnson.
In 1992, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the sister city relationship, a book exchange was undertaken between the peoples of the two cities. More than 500 books were collected in Kuopio and sent to Minneapolis, where they were distributed in various libraries and schools. The sister city committee in Minneapolis collected approximately 350 books which were shipped to the City Library in Kuopio.
In May 1993, Kuopio mayor Kauko Heuru and Mrs. Riitta Heuru visited Minneapolis. During that time they met with Mayor Don Fraser, visited a junior high school, the University of Minnesota, and met with members of the Finnish American community.
In 1994, with help initiated by the local sister city committee, the City of Kuopio applied for and received a $3000 grant from American Forests for tree-planting activities and school involvement in Kuopio. Students at a Kuopio middle school prepared a five-minute video on the tree-planting and school location.
In June 1995, Petri Kervola, from the MediaCenter in Kuopio visited Minneapolis to talk with teachers, media instructors, and others involved in local cable broadcasts, film, and the media sector. Upon his return, he made a short documentary video about Minneapolis and wrote for the local press.
Traineeships in catering and food services
From 1995-1998, for four years, the Minneapolis Sister City committee hosted one or two university students in three-month traineeships in Catering and Food Services at the University of Minnesota. The trainees came from the North Savo Technical College where they studied catering management and had to fulfill two practical training stints.
Exhibit by glass artist from Kuopio
In December 1998, Finnish glass artist Heikki Jylhä was the featured artist at the Art Resources Gallery’s 1998 Invitational Glass Show in Minneapolis. The sister city committee arranged for a high school art class to visit the exhibit and learn about his work.
Visit of a youth church group
A junior-high Lutheran church group from Kuopio visited the Twin Cities in August 2000, hosted by a family who had kept in touch after a foreign student host stay. The student group visited City Hall and was welcomed by Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. They also toured the campus of Augsburg College.
Finlandia Foundation grant for travel to Kuopio
In May 1998, local coordinator Betsey Norgard received a grant from Finlandia Foundation to travel to Kuopio to meet with Sister City officials there. The purpose of the trip was for discussion of ways that new projects could be initiated between the two cities, especially within schools. Cultural exchanges for future years were discussed.
America Days in Kuopio
In August 2001, a delegation of 25 people from the Twin Cities, led by former Minneapolis mayor Don Fraser and his wife, Arvonne, visited Kuopio for America Days. Each year a different member city of the League of Finnish-American Cities hosts this annual gathering. The Twin Cities group took part as honored guests of Kuopio and participated in a gala parade, riding in old American convertibles. An exhibit of Native American culture in Minneapolis was displayed during the time at the Kuopio Central Library. Kip Peltoniemi and Ruth MacKenzie traveled with the group and performed several times during the festival.
Augsburg College Choir in Kuopio
In May 2002, as part of their tour of the Nordic countries, the Augsburg College Choir performed at the Kuopio City Music Hall, arranged by the city government.
A year after America Days, a group of nearly 20 people from Kuopio traveled to Minneapolis to participate in FinnFest, the annual national gathering of Finns and Finnish-Americans. A smaller delegation of seven people met with local Sister City committee members and were hosted at City Hall for lunch.
Youth Workers Conference
Karl Reichert, now chair of the Minneapolis Kuopio Partnership, attended the European Union Cultural Arts Youth Workers conference in February 2008, hosted by the City of Kuopio.
Kuopio Housing Fair
Minneapolis City Council member Lisa Goodman and Karl Reichert represented Minneapolis at the Kuopio Housing Fair in summer 2010. They met with Mr. Petteri Paronen, mayor of Kuopio, as well as members of the city council and city board.
Mayor Petteri Paronen visits Minneapolis
In November 2011, Kuopio mayor Petteri Paronen and Professor Jukka Mönkkönen, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, visited Minneapolis. In addition to a meeting with Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, they met with faculty and administrators at the University of Minnesota, where research collaborations in medicine and science have been ongoing for a number of years. The Minneapolis Kuopio Partnership hosted a welcome reception for the visitors where they were able to meet members of the Minneapolis City Council and the Finnish community.
Focus on Education
In June 2012, “Education at its Best: A Conversation with Teachers from Finland” brought together two Finnish teachers who shared their experiences in the classroom. Satu Nissi, a primary school teacher in Kuopio, talked about teaching techniques in her classroom, and Ulla Tervo-Desnick, an elementary school teacher who returned to Finland for a year to teach, presented her ideas on translating Finnish approaches to learning in classrooms here.
Celebrating 40 years of Partnership
In August 2013 a nine-member delegation from the Twin Cities traveled to Kuopio to celebrate 40 years of partnership. Led by Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman and Minneapolis Kuopio Partnership Chair Karl Reichert, Director of the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis, the delegation included:
- Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President and CEO of Minnesota High Tech Association and former Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.
- Ben Horn, owner of Finn Style and member of the Minneapolis Kuopio Partnership committee.
- Bill Deef, Vice President of International Relations for Meet Minneapolis
- Stephen Dent, an author, speaker and consultant in partnering intelligence.
- Neal Holtan, MD, MPH, PhD, Director of Preventive Medicine & Public Health Consulting Division for Partnership Continuum, Inc. and Medical Director, St. Paul – Ramsey CountyPublic Health.
- Anita Jain, Director of Common Strands International Fiber Art Exchange and member of Minneapolis Kuopio Partnership Committee.
- K. Marianne Wargelin, Honorary Consul of Finland in the Twin Cities since 1999.