Stuttgart-St. Louis celebrate heritages
St. Louis Globe Democrat
April 20, 2010
I get a chance to tag along with some neat people. I recall when candidate Obama was running for the White House -- there I was in a special tent with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Mayor Francis Slay, Congressman William Clay, and Gov. Jay Nixon, and a dozen secret service agents, while allegedly, a crowd of one million were crunched together under the Gateway Arch. For equal time, I've been in similar crowds with U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Presidents George W. and George Herbert Walker Bush, so no e-mails on politics please.
From time to time this column will take you behind the scenes at some of the most notable parties, special events and just everyday happenings throughout our region. The events have to have sometime unique about them.
Scrubby Dutch and Sister City: I lived part of my youth in Milwaukee - in the German part of town, as a matter of fact the entire region was German. And if you've been hanging around St. Louis earlier in life, you can recall great sections of South Side being part of the "Scrubby Dutch" community. As a matter of fact for 15 years, I lived on a farm in Defiance, near Daniel Boone's home. Not sure Boone was German, but the farms have deep German roots.
Fast Forward: I had a chance recently to hover over a Stuttgart Reception at the Missouri History Museum - without competing with colleagues Deb Peterson or Jerry Berger.
This was the St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities celebration of a 50-year partnership. The only time I've been at a German event was the Strassenfest - where everyone is German and rather wild. But this subdued event was tangled with the upper crust from Ladue, Chesterfield and Clayton. I did bump into two South City chicks.
Wolfgang Schuster is treated like a royal Lord, after all he's the Lord Mayor of the region's Sister City - Stuttgart, noted for its ballet. Schuster, I've been told, is elected for an eight-year term. There are four other "mayors" in Stuttgart (mostly like little burbs), but there's only one Lord - as in religious reality - yours or mine, or not.
I cornered the Lord Mayor Schuster, who was very curious, but courteous. He confided that just like our "Big Mayor" Francis Slay, and other local municipal mayors that his office is not void of City Hall complaints. He's always thinking of how to maximize his taxpayers' public dollars.
He said his city is rapidly expanding with a growing population of immigrants, and while he welcomes diversity, he's concerned the level of service doesn't diminish, insisting that his government works efficiently.
The Sister City has 170 nationalities all living together under one expansive air-roof. Schuster focused on the challenges of promoting cultural diversity and says long-term it's an enrichment tool for Stuttgart and a significant model if he can pull it off.
Mayor Francis Slay, who plans to visit Schuster's hometown next month (his first visit), stressed to the couple of hundred VIPs that the partnership has been a good one of exchanging ideas and how each city pushes to successfully adapt to the changing global environment. Charlie Dooley, county executive was in the mayor's amen corner.
Mayor Slay got chuckles when he learned Schuster would be throwing out the first pitch at a Cards game. "Some guys give up their first-born to get that honor," quipped Slay. I later cornered Schuster, who admitted the American summer pastime has not fully caught on in Stuttgart, and between me and thee, it ain't going to happen - a World Series in Stuttgart.
The evening appeared to go without a hitch - presents exchanged -- a key to the city, a framed poster of the 1904 World's Fair, Anheuser-Busch beverages at the bar - why not, the descendents were Germans, right? Oh, but for equal time! The Stuttgart delegation did have a chance to quietly tour Schlafly's brewery - without Mayor Slay, in tow.
Through all the festivities, Mayor Slay insisted that Sister Cities is much more than handshakes and international visits. After all, Wash U and Webster University have exchange programs with two Stuttgart higher education institutions. At the private gathering in the History Museum both cities signed an environmental pact, each represented by Slay and Schuster, respectfully.
By the way, we bumped into Dr. Wolfgang Holtkemp of Stuttgart University and he swears that the Midwest is fantastic, because it's "tranquil and fairly insulated in a good way." He must be referring to the fact that we lost TWA and American Airlines significantly cut destinations out of here. "But, we're still the Gateway to the West," bellowed Holtkemp, and exchange student Bernhard Minke.
I was impressed with the evening's music by four talented youngsters; called "Haywire," accompanied by either a proud teacher or a stage mother or two. They played a lot of wonderful American greats, including "Old Susannah" -- I think. I began to get nervous, that doesn't sound like a Missouri waltz, and I could have sworn that "Dixie" was coming, so I hurriedly left the building.
Seriously, there were no international incidents (except possibly for this column) because World Trade Center's Tim Nowak, Susanne Evens, president of the St. Louis Stuttgart Sisters Cities and Visitors and Convention's prez Kitty Ratcliffe, and Mayor Slay's special assistant Josh Wiese - were on their toes, even when all of their eyes were dancing around watching me work the room.
So when the good German neighbors eventually left Sister St. Louis, several asked me what does "it's all good" mean? I told them to ask County Executive Charlie Dooley, who is the king of colloquialisms. The food looked great and was very tasty - I live off of Dierberg's Deli, so what do I know? I think I ate something German.
So, this event receives three stars -- for a good cultural evening.