BRECON could be heading to its American twin town next summer to celebrate 25 years of Celtic culture, music and ancient games after Saline City Council invited the Powys town to its major Celtic Festival.
A decade after the last visit in 2011 by residents of Brecon and Talgarth to the Michigan city, Saline's mayor, Brian Marl (pictured) has written to Brecon's mayor, John Powell urging Brecon to attend the festival which the City Council has promised will be “bigger and better.” The two-day event will take place during the visit, which is expected to last around two weeks.
Mayor Marl said: “The City is very eager to organise and host our 25th annual Celtic Festival in July, 2022. Moreover, we’re thrilled to extend an invitation to our friends in Brecon. Maintaining our relationship with the Town of Brecon is a key priority for both myself, and the Saline community. In part, the Celtic Festival celebrates our relationship and the rich culture of the British Isles. Having a Brecon delegation attend and participate in the 2022 Celtic Festival will be a wonderful addition to an already fantastic event.”
The invitation is backed by the Saline-Brecon Friendship Guild. Jim Roth, Guild president, said: “It is my hope that somebody in Brecon can organise a group that is interested in visiting Saline. The Friendship Guild will host the visitors and house them in their homes or help make hotel accommodation. The major cost for the Brecon folks would be the airfare.”
Brecon and Saline became in May, 1966 the first Welsh-American sister city link when at Brecon's Guild Hall Brecon mayor, Alderman Llewelyn Jones and Saline mayor, George Anderson signed the twinning agreement. Since then over 4,000 visits have been made by council officials and residents to the town and city as they criss-crossed the ocean
In the early years visits were very much one way with Michigan's Musical Youth International, one of the world's leading youth choir's making the first official visit to Brecon in 1967. Brecon's first visit to Saline came six years later in November, 1973 when the mayor, Tony Elston and his wife, Liz flew into nearby Detroit airport for Thanksgiving Day in an exchange paid by Ford of America. Mayor Elston was Brecon's main Ford dealer and Michigan is one of the world's leading car manufacturers with a car plant until recently on the outskirts of Saline.
Brecon Cathedral Choir visited Saline in 1976, marking the 200th anniversary of USA independence, and as part of International Youth Year in 1984 Brecon Youth Club leader, Edgar Collier led a small group of young people to Saline.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the twinning, Brecon-Saline Twinning Association under president, John Marsden, principal of Coleg Powys, was set up in 1986 and in June 60 residents spent two weeks in Saline. They repeated the visit in 2011 for the 45th anniversary, but there were no visitors to Saline in 2016 for the 50th anniversary, the Association's officers having retired.
A large group from Saline visited Brecon in 2008 when they unveiled a sign at the then tourist information building and a smaller group visited in 2019.
Now the search is on in Brecon to find new officers to drive the Association forward and to take up Mayor Marl's invitation (firstname.lastname@example.org). The invitation is not exclusively bound to people living in Brecon. It also extends to those living outside Brecon. In past years visitors' to Saline have included people living as far away as Talgarth.
Jim Roth (email@example.com) said: “Our efforts turn to 2022, when we have high hopes of having our best and largest Saline Celtic Festival yet, an event that will celebrate our diverse cultural heritages, as well as being our 25th festival which has been two years in the making.”
Saline, a rural city, has grown from a population of 2,300 in 1965 to 9,000 today and lies one hour's drive west of Detroit. Its name derives from French visitors in the 18th century who harvested salt from the area. It sits just south of the university town of Ann Arbor with its university buildings (45,000 students) based on the English colleges of Oxford and Cambridge universities. More stories