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'More commonalities than differences': Macon leaders learn from sister city Mâcon, France

The cities first signed the sister city agreement in 1972.

MACON, Ga. — Macon and its sister city, Mâcon, France, signed their first sister city agreement 50 years ago.

The sister city program started back in the 50s as a way to foster cultural connections across the globe.

Earlier this month, Macon-Bibb leaders made the trip across the Atlantic to celebrate the 50-year milestone. The Macon-Bibb delegation was in Mâcon for about four days. They toured the city, sampled the food and gathered inspiration for Macon-Bibb. The main event was the Twinning Ceremony.

"The Twinning Ceremony is a sister city, a coupling of two cities," said Henry Ficklin, Macon-Bibb's community affairs director.

Macon and Mâcon, France's first Twinning Ceremony was in 1972, when Ronnie Thompson was the mayor. 50 years later, the fellowship and the partnership are still bright.

"We realized in this trip that we have more commonalities than differences," said Charise Stephens, Macon-Bibb's small business affairs director.

"There was a parade, an official signing of the documents and then of course, speeches given," Ficklin said.

Ficklin and Stephens formed the Macon-Bibb delegation. They say the trip was all about learning.

"We have people from all walks of life. As we learn more about culture connectivity, I think we can be a better place to stay, work and play," Stephens said.

Stephens says culture is a big part of expanding small business. She says Mâcon, France's downtown area was walkable, and lined with mom-and-pop shops.

"Being there made me realize that we as a community, we need to walk more, bike more, get back out," Stephens said. "The connectivity because people are out and about, you can sense it."

Ficklin said drivers there also seemed more cautious. They even came back with inspiration to help keep pedestrians safe.

"When a citizen is walking, there's a lot of walking and biking in Mâcon, France. Cars would always stop a distance away and give the right of way to the person that is the pedestrian," Ficklin said.

Both said they came back with a renewed look at law enforcement. The county has a specific budget for this stuff, which only includes airfare. Once Stephens and Ficklin were in France, the local French government covered everything.

Ficklin and Stephens say the folks in Mâcon, France, also learned a bit from us here in Central Georgia. They too love cherry blossoms, and may even start up their own festival, Ficklin said.


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