WALLDORF, Germany Fireworks lit up the night sky Wednesday, on the final day of the sister city celebration, marking 50 years of the friendship between Astoria and Walldorf.
In true Walldorf style, the fireworks display was the best most Americans in attendance had ever seen, many commented.
The fireworks came after guests were treated to an exceptional evening of classical music, generosity and gifts from the German American Friendship Club, which appointed a few honorary members during a reception before the fireworks display. Mayor Willis Van Dusen, his wife Jan, Bruce and Susie Conner, Jim Pierce, and Ron and Patty Larson were among those appointed with a framed certificate.
The friendship club, similar to the sister city committee in Astoria, also presented gifts of silver frames and money clips to each of the guests from the Astoria delegation. The event was part of the 50th anniversary celebration for the sister city link and marked the 250th birthday of John Jacob Astor, who was from Walldorf and gave his name to Astoria.
Walldorf Burgermeisterin Christiane Staab and her husband, Andreas, gave everyone a special bottle of wine as a personal gift for the delegation members. The city of Walldorf gave hats, blankets and other gifts in bags adorned with the Astor celebration logo as a farewell gift.
Sadly, we must say goodbye, Staab said, noting that Astorians are always welcome in Walldorf, and will be treated like family.
When we come to Walldorf, we feel like we're coming home, Susie Conner said.
The gifts were given at the home of Dr. Siegfried and Sigrid Tuengerthal, who hosted a beautiful reception adorned with American and German flags. The napkins were red, white, and blue, as were the ribbons decorating each table. The Tuengerthals served champagne, and as a nod to Van Dusen Pepsi, as well as a catered meal.
The former burgermeister of Walldorf, Dr. Jurgen Criegee, was also present and thanked the Astorians for coming to Walldorf. He said the friendship between the two cities was important and necessary to continue for the future.
Astoria presented gifts, too. A Regatta print was given, number 34 of the 50 printed, for this year's upcoming celebration. Other Walldorf staff members were also presented with gifts tokens from Astoria, including a crystal block with the Astoria Column and a Christmas ornament.
Jokingly, Van Dusen also gave everyone a Pepsi. Bruce Conner, who is chairman of the sister city committee and the owner of the travel agency the city used to book the trip, received a gift from Van Dusen of a painting of Astoria a thank you for his work with the city during the five day celebration.
He also received his 41st Mr . Magoo doll, a nickname Van Dusen had given him. The German version of the doll was given by Staab, who laughed and apologized as she handed him the box.
Each member of the Astoria City Council thanked Walldorf for their hospitality and generosity.
I've been treated like a queen, City Councilwoman Arline LaMear said.
Councilman Drew Herzig said he has never been to Europe before and will remember this life-changing trip for the rest of his life. He then added, I hope to come back and refresh my memory from time to time, to applause from the audience.
Counciwoman Karen Mellin said she came to Germany as a vegetarian. The crowd exploded in laughter. She said she quickly gave up her vegetarian way of life and has had a wonderful time in the city.
European Parliament and concert
Earlier in the day the delegation took a trip to Strasbourg, France for a tour of the European Parliament building. The guide explained how the European Union works. The building was dressed in signs welcoming Croatia to the union.
Then the guests ate in the Parliament cafeteria, prior to returning.
After the reception, Astorians were taken to Astor park for a classical concert. Wolfgang Meyer played a Beethoven piece on a clarinet that was crafted by George Astor, John Jacob Astor's brother. The clarinet is normally on display in the Astorhaus Museum but was brought out for the special occasion.
A jazz band also played, but before beginning, they promised a surprise. It arrived with beautiful fireworks that filled the sky. Hugs were exchanged and goodbyes were said, as the Americans departed.
Until next time ....