For more than half a century, cities all across the country have been making connection with towns in foreign countries in an international program of “sister” cities. Medford was the first in Southern Oregon, with Alba, Italy.
However, it was the union 25 years ago between Grants Pass and an industrial city in south central Siberia that may have been the most unlikely, and one of the most energetic. In the winter of 1990, Grants Pass and Josephine County joined the fraternity of sister cities by voting to join with the Siberian soviet city of Rubtsovsk, but it wasn’t an easy sell in the politically conservative community.
After long discussion, county and city leaders agreed to make the connection which stemmed from white water rafting contacts the year before by Josephine County resident Cindy Patterson. Later that summer, in 1990, Mayor Candace Bartow and her husband and daughter, myself and several students made the trip to Rubtsovsk, in the Altai region of Siberia. There, the agreement was signed, and as they say ‘the rest is history.’
One of the symbols around Grants Pass of this enduring friendship is the sister city bear, out in front of the chamber of commerce building. The sister city connection is a project that has gone on for a quarter of a century now and those who are really involved hope it will continue on for at least that much longer.