Saluda Sister City is abuzz

Published 8:30 am Monday, December 25, 2023

Saluda Sister City completes its most successful year and is looking forward to its tenth anniversary in 2024. Saluda and its sister city, Carunchio, Italy, were approved by the International Sister Cities organization to work together for cultural exchanges. The focus for Saluda has been on the children in our two communities.

Both Saluda and Carunchio are small towns of roughly 600-650 residents, and both are at the same latitude and altitude. Each town has an elementary school serving kindergarten through fifth grades.

In April of 2023, Saluda sent two of its teachers to Carunchio for a week to learn Italian culture and open up greater communication lines with the teachers and students in Carunchio. The impact on Saluda School is already evident.  

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Mrs. Stephanie Fletcher, a first-grade teacher and one of the two teachers who traveled to Italy this year, has designed a website for Saluda School, parts of which are shared with Carunchio Primary School, as one way to connect the teachers and children from each school. The site offers materials for lesson plans related to cultural issues which can be integrated into any classroom and any subject. Mrs. Fletcher also requested and received a grant from Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation to fund individual Italian language instruction for students in second through fifth grades. While the ability to speak two languages is a valuable asset in life, even more important is the positive impact it has on the young, developing brain. Saluda Sister City contributed the additional funds necessary to carry out the project, ensuring every eligible student can participate.

In June of 2023, nineteen Saludians and friends journeyed to Carunchio for a one-week stay in the Palazzo Tour D’Eau, a restored 1700s palazzo on top of the Carunchio mountain. The trip was special because it was during the annual Infiorata or Feast of Flowers in Carunchio. Our travelers mingled with local Carunchio residents and constructed two of the 36 designs that covered the ground in the middle piazza in Carunchio. Each design was 5’x 8’ and made entirely of flower petals and buds, ferns, ground coffee, cornmeal and other natural substances. The festival included a parade with a band, food and evening music and dance.

In July of 2023, Claire Thompson, a rising 12th-grader from Saluda, spent nearly a month in Italy. She had several weeks in Carunchio as part of the Sister City cultural exchange program and visited a variety of historic and cultural sites, participated in a truffle hunt, cooked (AND ATE) wonderful Italian food, toured a cheese factory and a bell foundry, and ate seafood on an ancient trabocchi (fish house) atop stilts in the Adriatic Sea. Benedetta Formisano, a prior Carunchio student delegate to Saluda, then hosted Claire as they traveled north by train to explore Milan, Lake Como and other parts of Italy. In the summer of 2024, two students from Carunchio will travel to Saluda for a month to immerse themselves in our community, language and culture. Then, in 2025, Saluda Sister City will again send a local high school student delegate to Carunchio, continuing the summer exchange program. 

The Christmas holidays brought letter and email exchanges between the two schools. The Saluda students wrote to tell of their favorite holiday traditions, and a slide show was shared that captured several Saluda community traditions.  At one of the local traditions, the Saluda Hometown Christmas Stroll, home-baked Italian Panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas bread, was offered to strollers from the Sister City table.

The new year brings additional excitement. On Saturday, February 3, Saluda Sister City will host its first Lasagna Competition and Dinner, which, hopefully, will become an annual event.  Twenty local cooks will offer their best lasagna to 100 patrons at the Saluda Senior Center. The Mountain Page Players will entertain with a show of lively Italian songs. The full meal of all-you-can-eat lasagna, salad, bread, dessert and wine, plus the show, is $25 per ticket for adults, less for children. Tickets and forms to sign up to cook lasagna are available on the Saluda Sister City website at 

The organization is also reaching out to local students ages 13 to 18, with targeted outreach to Polk County Middle and High School, to offer an opportunity to participate in Sister City International’s Young Artists and Authors Showcase. The medium may be artwork, literature, photography or music. Submissions are judged around an annual theme and judged based on creativity, composition and theme interpretation. This year’s theme is “Climatescape: Resilient Cities for Tomorrow’s Climate.” Prizes range from $1,000 for first place down to $100 for third place. Art may be oil, acrylic, watercolor, charcoal or colored pencils. Digital art is allowed but is a separate category. In literature, students may submit essays, anecdotes or other written work. Poetry is a separate category. The deadline for entries to Saluda Sister City is April 1, 2024, and to Sister Cities International is May 1, 2024. Students who are interested in participating should check the Saluda Sister City website for more information.

March 14, 2024, will see Saluda Sister City partnering with The Orchard Inn for a fine dining experience. The 4-course Italian dinner will celebrate dishes from four different regions of Italy. Additionally, a selection of traditional Italian aperitifs will be offered, and entertainment will be provided by the Mountain Page Players. Information and tickets will be available on the Orchard Inn website. Stay tuned. 

Saluda Sister City offers individual and family memberships. Membership dues support the cross-cultural work of Saluda Sister City in the community and in the schools. The organization also offers volunteer opportunities for adults and teens to help with events and projects. For more information, please visit the website at or call Judy Thompson @ 828-489-6578.


Submitted by Judy Thompson