FSCA: Continuing French Connections
The Sister City program was begun by President Eisenhower as a post-war endeavor to increase international understanding through “citizen diplomacy.” Frejus, France became Fredericksburg’s first sister city as a result of this international effort to foster friendship and understanding through cultural exchange and personal involvement.
Since its founding in 1980, Fredericksburg Sister City has hosted an annual student exchange; in even-numbered years, the students from Fréjus come to our area and stay in the homes of French students; in odd-numbered years, students from the Fredericksburg area visit Fréjus and are hosted by French students’ families. Hundreds of students and adults have helped fulfill what Eisenhower envisioned as “citizen diplomacy.”
The ties between the two cities have extended beyond student exchanges to include artists’ exhibitions, photography shows, choral groups, theatrical performances, Masonic Lodge affiliations, technical school visits, basketball team exchanges, librarians, economic cooperation visits, and even firefighters.
A small garden in Fredericksburg and two roundabouts in Fréjus are dedicated to the Sister City relationship. In Fredericksburg, an inviting seating area, adjacent to the Visitors’ Center, commemorates the partnership, complete with ceramic tiles and a custom-made sun dial. Festivities around important dates are regularly held: the 50th anniversary of WWII, celebrations of the Sister City anniversaries, the 250th birthday of the Marquis de la Fayette; lots and lots of very good dinners, and every year, a Mardi Gras party, complete with zydeco and King Cake. At every turn, the two cities find more and more ways to build on their common bonds.
Perhaps one of the most unusual highlights is the celebration of the “Giant Omelet,” which has occurred in both Fredericksburg and Fréjus. The tradition, with roots in the Napoleonic Wars to feed hungry troops, has now become a day-long civic event with music, dancing, and a parade honoring butter, eggs, and cheese; crusty baguettes, and a 10,000-egg omelet, prepared in a huge cast iron pan and yards-long paddles, lovingly served by the Confrerie, the honored folks of the Order of the Giant Omelet.