Representatives of the seaside town of Mumbles, Wales, could not travel to Havre de Grace last week to visit with their U.S. counterparts in the “twinning” relationship between the two communities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so their American hosts treated them to a virtual visit instead.
Havre de Grace entered into a twinning relationship with Mumbles, which is part of the Swansea Bay region along Wales' Gower Peninsula, in 2019. About 20 people from Havre de Grace, including Mayor William T. Martin and City Council members Casi Boyer and Carolyn Zinner, traveled to Mumbles last September.
The Havre de Grace representatives were hosted by members of the Twinning Association of Mumbles, and the two groups signed a “twinning charter” to cement the cities' relationship.
“We had a wonderful visit and were set to welcome them here this week,” Debby Stathes, chair of the city’s Cultural Exchange Commission, said during a City Council meeting Oct. 5.
Representatives of Mumbles would have stayed in Havre de Grace last week as guests of members of the Havre de Grace Twinning Association, but they had to cancel their trip because of the pandemic, according to Stathes.
“Rather than giving up on the visit, we decided on a virtual visit,” she said.
The virtual excursion began Oct. 4 with a Zoom video call, during which the charter signed in 2019 was affirmed, according to Stathes, who called the meeting “a lovely Zoom get-together.”
Videos were posted on the Havre de Grace Twinning page on Facebook each day last week. Havre de Grace hosts have given video tours of their houses, as well as tours of sites around the city such as the Cultural Center at the Opera House, the Vandiver Inn, St. John’s Episcopal Church and the downtown arts district.
The trip ended Saturday at noon with a final Zoom call, according to Stathes. She thanked Mayor Martin and his staff for their support of “our efforts to promote friendship in a community far away, but very [much] like us.”
Boyer encouraged Stathes to direct people to the Havre de Grace Twinning Facebook page and said visitors should leave comments on the videos “so that we can keep a conversation going.”
“Everybody’s invited, not just people who are part of the [twinning] association,” Boyer noted.
The mayor thanked Stathes for her efforts and highlighted the “wonderful job” the Cultural Exchange Commission has done since it was created last year.
Martin recalled his trip to Mumbles and noted how much Stathes, who, with her husband, Chris, has made multiple visits to the community and purchased property there in 2017, emphasizes the similarities between Mumbles and Havre de Grace.
Martin said he also was looking for any differences between the U.S. and United Kingdom communities, but “to my amazing surprise, there are very little differences.”
Havre de Grace and Mumbles are both coastal towns, have issues with water and sewer infrastructure, are working to improve their parks, plus elected leaders get frustrated at times with complaints from residents posted on social media.
“It’s so funny, the things that are so similar in another country 3,000 miles away in the same kind of community, just the same issues that face everybody in day-to-day life,” Martin said.
A Havre de Grace flag was flying in Mumbles last week, and a welcome sign along the road to town notes its twinning relationship with Havre de Grace. Martin said city leaders are preparing to put up a welcome sign along Route 155 that also states Havre de Grace is twinning with Mumbles.
“They’re just the most hospitable, kind, friendly people, who are just so delighted to make friends from a little town called Havre de Grace in the state of Maryland, the United States, and we feel the same way about them,” he said of Mumbles residents.