I've been thinking about ... Estonia.
Since quite a number of Carroll Countians have traveled to Estonia on military, inter-governmental, business, philanthropical and cultural exchanges since 2002, it's no wonder we are concerned about what is happening in their backyard, so to speak.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1993 there has been a robust State Partnership Program in America leading to Estonia's entry into NATO and the European Union. These state partnerships have been beneficial to both parties and some experts believe that the partnerships in Maryland serve as a model for success.
The Westminster-Paide Partner City Program goes back to the very beginning of the effort and is a privately funded, component fund of the Community Foundation of Carroll County, Inc.
I had the great honor and privilege to be invited by the Maryland National Guard to conduct a philanthropy workshop in Paide, Estonia in 2003. As prepared as I was, I was still overwhelmed by my reception. There were representatives from all the Baltic states and they were there to listen to me talk about charitable giving and how to do it. Remarkable. The Estonians really get capitalism and I was able to show them that philanthropy is really part of capitalism. They showed great interest and I'm proud to say that a year later I got a call telling me that there is now a community foundation-like organization in the County of Parnu, Estonia.
Westminster has hosted the Estonian Television Girls' Choir, an incredibly, multi-talented group. Our Children's Chorus of Carroll County has visited Estonia and many Carroll County business people and government officials have also had the opportunity to visit our "Sister City." The Eric Byrd Trio and I did a number of concerts at different venues all over the country. It turns out the Estonians love American Jazz. Who knew?
Late in 2015, the Community Foundation was asked if we would like to host two youth folk dance groups in June 2016. Late Monday evening, June 27, 36 Estonians arrived at Dulles Airport. There are 26 dancers and 10 adult chaperones. We are delighted to greet two old friends among them and to make more new friends. They are housed at McDaniel College and have a very full schedule. They will be participating in Common Ground on the Hill and have already had a few public performances.
On the Fourth of July, they will perform twice at the Carroll County Farm Museum at 4:30 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. They are very excited about seeing our wonderful fireworks display sponsored by the Westminster Kiwanis Club.
While they are here they will also visit the Warfield Air National Guard Base, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Ocean City and Gettysburg. On Sunday, July 3, they will attend services at Grace Lutheran Church and attend a Frederick Keys game.
On their last day they will visit Washington, D.C., spending some time at the Air and Space Museum and the Estonian Embassy.
Please, if you happen to see them or attend a performance, say hello and welcome. Most of them speak English. As they have already indicated, this is a once in a lifetime event for them. And I can tell you honestly that is exactly what it was for me as well.
Audrey Cimino is executive director of The Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.