By Madison Aldrich, marketing & communications intern
On May 11 of 2022, Carmel, Indiana formalized its third sister city relationship: Jelgava, Latvia. Jelgava is Carmel’s first sister city in Europe and Jelgava’s first sister city in the United States.
A sister city relationship is established when the mayors of the two cities sign a memorandum of understanding. The relationship fosters international relations through community relations. Creating these relationships helps promote Indiana and its cities as a culturally diverse and accepting state and turning into not only the crossroads of America but the crossroads of the world.
Carmel & Jelgava
|Size||49 square miles||23 square miles|
Andris Berzins, Honorary Consul of Latvia to Indiana, leads the committee of local Carmel leaders who began conversations about the sister city relationship. Both Carmel and Jelgava’s communities have an emphasis on art, culture, education, music, and outdoor activities and opportunities within the community. As the relationship continues to grow, Carmel & Jelgava hope to begin facilitating high school and collegiate student exchange programs, as well as musical group exchanges. The relationship has the potential to create networking and business opportunities, as well as encourage tourism within both cities.
Berzins, whose mother grew up in Latvia, said “This relationship would not be possible without the support of The International Center, especially the wisdom and guidance which Martin and Peter have provided me from their sister city relationships.” Martin Baier, The Center’s President and CEO, spoke at Berzins’ installment ceremony, while Chief of Protocol Peter Kirkwood assisted with the coordination of travels for the Latvian Ambassador. Kirkwood also serves as the Indiana state representative for Sister Cities International.
Recently, the Carmel & Jelgava Sister Cities partnership put up an informational booth at the Carmel Farmers Market on June 25th. At the end of each summer month, Carmel’s Farmers Market focuses specifically on cultural and diversity events.
Jelgava, Latvia is a city located in Central Latvia in Northeast Europe. More than half of Latvia is covered with forests, meadows, and pastures.
Located just behind the city are the Lielupe flood land meadows of Palace Island. These meadows are listed as a Natura 2000 site, a part of the European specially protected nature territory, due to the diversity of rare bird and plant species. There, more than 80 Konik horses and foals can be found grazing peacefully. The Konik is an endangered Polish breed of pony with semi-feral populations living in nature reserves throughout Europe.
Jelgava, Latvia is home to the largest winter event in the Baltic Sea: the International Ice Sculpture Festival. Summers are filled with festivals, such as the Jelgava City Festival, the General Latvian Milk, Bread, and Honey Festival, Milk Carton Boat Regatta, and the International Sand Sculpture Festival. The sand sculpture event, Summer Signs, features masterpieces by artists from 10 different European countries including Latvian artists.