On day one we were guests at the Rotary of Leavenworth luncheon, making a presentation about Wagga Wagga and exchanging rotary banners between the cities. We also got a tour of the Justice Center with the Police Chief (complete with mugshots, a look inside a police car and our own police patches to take home), a tour and interview at the Leavenworth Times newspaper, and a reception and dinner with the Mayor, City Manager, City Commissioners (Councillors), and other VIPs. Here the Mayor of Leavenworth, Nancy Bauder, officially proclaimed September 5 to 12 as "Wagga Wagga Week" and presented us with a proclamation certificate. How exciting!
On day two we were given a tour of Leavenworth High School where we learnt about the junior ROTC military program, got a peek of the underground rifle range and the talented school choir performed for us! Continuing to explore Leavenworth’s educational opportunities, we also toured the University of St Mary, and toured the University of Kansas (where Basketball was invented and 'helium' on the periodic table was discovered). We gave a presentation at the Lions Club, which had some friendly rivalry with Rotary! We will never forget the clown hats and ruckus that was made as members took the mickey out of each other and demanded people pay up in ‘fines’ to raise money. That evening we explored downtown Leavenworth & met the local business owners in the 'Alive after 5' event, as they served canapes and drinks as we shopped!
On day three we climbed into a fire truck to start the day, as we got a tour of the Leavenworth Fire Department. We then visited the famous 'Wagga Wagga Drive' for an iconic photo (what an impressive sign!). We toured Fort Leavenworth, a fascinating 'mini military town' where 1500 people live – it even has its own Burger King. We checked out the Command and General Staff College, where select international officers go to advance in the military. We then headed back into the CBD and rode on an antique carousel more than 100 years old, at the historic C.W Parker Carousel Museum - there was even a wooden horse named 'Wagga Wagga' of course! We got the opportunity to meet the Director of the 'Miss Leavenworth' quest to share stories and spent the night soaking up live bands, fire twirling and market stalls at the Leavenworth Hog BBQ Festival downtown.
We also spent some time in Kansas City, which is an easy 40 minute drive away. We visited the National World War One Museum, where volunteer John Reichley a history lesson on some 2,300 artefacts - only 8% of the museum's total collection. We also got the chance to explore the plaza shopping district in Kansas City! We saw a professional performance of 'Grease' at the outdoor Starlight Theatre (which seats almost 8000 people!). The show starred Leavenworth local Anthony 'Bubba' Gasbarre, whom we got to meet after the show. We were also invited to Leavenworth Baptist Church for the Sunday service and then went to the amazing Renaissance Festival, where we watched jousting, had a go at axe throwing, saw dragon slaying, watched Scottish Highland performances and dressed up in period costume.
We were special guests at the Fort Leavenworth Freedom Walk, which marked the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Selected local school children made outstanding speeches about what freedom means to them. It was a privilege to be part of such a sombre but inspiring day. We then visited the KCKCC Pioneer Career Center, and had a tour of the electrics, carpentry, plumbing and nursing facilities. The college has only been open for 2 years, and transformed a former Junior High School. Students from the Culinary Arts Program prepared and served a special lunch for us, including broccoli & bacon salad, and cinnamon scrolls for dessert. We then looked through the history of 'Miss Wagga Wagga' visits to Leavenworth, at the house of Maxine Hunter, who's previously hosted our city's ambassadors for many years. We had the true American experience at a Kansas City Royals baseball game on our last night. Sadly the team lost to the White Sox but we still cheered on Australian player Peter Moylan, with our flag in hand!
We cannot thank our sister city enough for their wonderful generosity, thoughtfulness in creating an itinerary that catered for both of our unique interests, and the amazing memories that we will always share. We look forward to hosting Leavenworth’s Mayor Nancy Bauder on her visit to Wagga Wagga in mid-October. If you have the chance to visit Leavenworth, or any one of our three sister cities, we strongly encourage you to embrace that international bond – we feel so lucky to have had that chance.