The Astoria City Council is about to begin the celebration of 50 years as a sister city with Walldorf, Germany – the birthplace of John Jacob Astor 250 years ago – with five days in the European town near Heidelberg in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

The celebration begins Saturday, and is similar to Astoria’s Bicentennial Celebration in 2011, the last time Astoria officials met with Walldorf officials and began detailed planning for this event.

“I am really looking forward to our trip,” Mayor Willis Van Dusen said. “The sister-city relationship with Walldorf is a big deal and when I was first elected mayor of Astoria, I didn’t realize the history and significance of the relationship. But we are the oldest sister-city relationship of two World War II enemies.”

The council, which includes Van Dusen and councilors Karen Mellin, Arline LaMear, Drew Herzig and Russ Warr, City Manager Paul Benoit and Sister City Committee President Bruce Conner were each provided round-trip airfare at $1,800 each by the city of Astoria.

All other participants – 41 in total including former Bicentennial Director Paulette McCoy, former Oregon State Police Trooper Jim Pierce and some City Council members’ spouses – were not paid for by the city. Hotel accommodations at the Holiday Inn for city councilors were provided for by Walldorf.

The council’s tickets were arranged individually, with different return flights for each of them to accommodate many traveling to different locations after the five-day Walldorf event.

Pierce is chaperoning the Astoria High School students whose trip coincides with the city’s visit.

“What’s really been the foundation is the exchange program with the high school students in Walldorf for the last 30 years,” Van Dusen said. “Now those former students are my age, so for 30 years we’ve had a continuous relationship through our students.

“I wish John Jacob Astor were going to be there for us to celebrate his birthday, but we are going to have a great trip. Lord Astor is also coming from Great Britain to be here. He came to our Bicentennial and I am anxious to see him again. We’re all going to have a lot of fun with our friends in Walldorf.”

The itinerary for the city’s visit begins Saturday evening, with a welcoming reception by Walldorf’s Mayor – Bergermisterin Christiane Staab. Then, the city will see the opening of the Astor exhibition at the Astorhaus, followed by a casual dinner in the Astor Park.

Sunday, the council will participate in an interdenominational service and the social center, followed by lunch, a guided walk through town and a “festive event” in the evening and the sports and culture hall.

Monday, the city will take a bus ride to the town of Neckargemund and then a boat trip to Heidelberg for a guided tour of the town and castle, as well as lunch at a nearby brewery.

The afternoon will be open for free time before all return to Walldorf for an evening presentation in the Walldorf library on “Developing the West: the dream of John Jacob Astor” by Dr. Alexander Emmerich. Dinner in the library follows.

Tuesday, Astorians will visit an elementary school and early childhood center, and be presented with an introduction into the German education system, followed by lunch in the school cafeteria. Then, they’ll take a bus tour of Walldorf and visit the local businesses, including “Session,” a music trading and service center, and a waterbed business.

Walldorf is also home to SAP, one of the largest business software companies in the world. In 2007, it was ranked third for highest revenue.

Tuesday afternoon, the council will once again be allowed free time, before the inauguration of the Astoria-Kreisel, a traffic circle.

Dinner and winetasting will follow in the Winery Wiesloch.

On the final day of the planned visit, Astorians will visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. In the evening, a reception by the German American Friendship Club will be hosted. The event concludes with a classical concert presenting original Astor instruments in the park.

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