Next year brings us the opportunity to celebrate the 325th anniversary of the founding of New Rochelle. From 1688 until today, from a small settlement of French Huguenots escaping religious persecution to our dynamic, diverse city — we will have plenty to celebrate.
Former City Council Member Marianne Sussman is leading the volunteer effort to fill 2013 with events that commemorate New Rochelle’s history and culture. Several other prominent members of the community have already signed up for the 325th anniversary committee, but much more help is needed. If you are interested in joining the committee, or if you are a member of a local organization that would like to take part in next year’s festivities, please attend the committee’s kick-off meeting on Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
For more information, bookmark newrochelleny.com/325. This page on the City’s website will be updated throughout the next year as plans for the anniversary celebration develop.
Also visit the New Rochelle Council on the Arts for details about their competition to design a logo for the anniversary.
New Rochelle was founded in 1688 by French Huguenots — Protestants seeking religious freedom in the Americas. The chief Huguenot stronghold was La Rochelle, a thriving port community on the Atlantic coast, so when it came time to name their new settlement, the Huguenots had an easy choice, and New Rochelle was born. La Rochelle and New Rochelle have maintained a connection ever since, with cultural exchanges and visits of dignitaries marking important anniversaries on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1911, exactly one hundred years ago, the people of New Rochelle presented their French counterparts with an exceptional gift, a statue of Jean Guiton, the heroic 17th Century mayor who defended the Huguenots when La Rochelle was under siege. The statue still stands in the courtyard of La Rochelle’s City Hall.
To commemorate the centennial of this gift, La Rochelle has invited us to send a delegation of citizens for an official visit in October. The trip is being arranged by the New Rochelle Sister City Committee, which hopes to select a balanced, representative delegation of about 20 community leaders and cultural ambassadors. They are particularly interested in having some Huguenot descendants along. The trip and all associated arrangements will be privately funded.
To learn more, please attend an informational meeting on Tuesday, May 31 at 7:30 pm in the City Hall Annex Room B-2. All are welcome. If you have any questions or if you cannot make this meeting, then please contact the Sister City Committee at email@example.com.
I wish that I could go myself, but the layered demands of government, the upcoming campaign, and young children make that impossible. But I will be wishing a fond “bon voyage” to the fortunate group who will represent our city abroad.
During the late 17th century, religious persecution drove many French Huguenots to leave Europe and settle in America. The chief Huguenot city of the period was La Rochelle, on France’s Atlantic coast. So, naturally, when a new community was founded at the edge of Long Island Sound in 1688, it was given the name New Rochelle.
Since then, New Rochelle and La Rochelle have maintained a relationship that waxes and wanes, depending upon interest, volunteer support, and the general spirit of the times.
Today, we are very fortunate to benefit from the work of a volunteer Sister City Committee that organizes cultural exchanges, an annual Bastille Day celebration, even a recent visit from the Mayor of La Rochelle. In the year ahead, a trip to La Rochelle is planned. (Alas, I won’t be able to go myself.)
The Sister City Committee, led by former New Rochelle City Manager Peter Korn, is seeking additional membership. If you are interested in New Rochelle’s history, fascinated by French culture, or simply enjoy the fun that comes from forging trans-Atlantic bonds, then please get in touch with the Committee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hosts and Musicians Sought
For several years, the New Rochelle Sister City Initiative, led by former City Manager Peter Korn, has reinvigorated our relationship with La Rochelle, France. The Sister City Initiative is now seeking public support and involvement in two ways.
Hosts Needed for France Youth Exchange
Volunteer families are needed to host high school students from La Rochelle for two to three weeks this summer. The program involves a direct family-to-family exchange whereby a high school student from selected schools in La Rochelle France will live with a New Rochelle family and experience life in and around New Rochelle, including trips to New York City. Families hosting a French student would be able to arrange a stay with a French family on a reciprocal basis in La Rochelle. The ideal families would have a high school student of similar age to the La Rochelle students and an interest in intercultural exchanges. It is not necessary that anyone in the family speak French. The program anticipates organizing several joint events, such as visits to New York City, Connecticut and local and New Rochelle landmarks such as the Thomas Paine Cottage, Huguenot-related historical sites and a meeting at City Hall for the participants. Families interested in serving as hosts should call Vivian Ponslet at New Rochelle High School at 914-576-4500 or Jim Kaplan at 212-471-8546 or e-mail email@example.com.
Musical Competition for La Rochelle Jazz Festival
The Sister City Committee is holding a competition to select a New Rochelle musician to play at the La Rochelle “New Orleans Jazz Festival,” expected to take place from April 30 to May 7, 2010. The musician will play with groups during the festival. The Initiative will cover the musician’s transportation expenses to and from La Rochelle. With the Festival sponsors and La Rochelle Rotary serving as hosts. At the Festival’s request, preference will be given to clarinet, trumpet or trombone, although others playing jazz may be considered by the Audition Committee. Those interested in auditioning should have familiarity with New Orleans-style jazz and an interest in language and culture, befitting an “ambassador” of New Rochelle. Knowledge of the French language, although helpful, is not required. Students and adults are welcome to apply, but must be available during all the concert dates. Interested musicians should immediately file a brief letter of interest and bio-sketch indicating their general background, education and musical experience and talents. A number of musicians will be called to either audition or, if out-of-town at an educational institution and unavailable for live audition, submit a CD or video-stream with samples of their jazz proficiency. Instructions for auditions will follow review of the letters of interest and selection of candidates. Interested persons should send the application letter, bio-sketch and telephone/e-mail contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org or Sister City Committee, c/o Mayor’s Office, 515 North Avenue, New Rochelle 10801.
Help Strengthen Sister-City Ties
Learn More about La Rochelle.
In recent months, New Rochelle has strengthened its historic ties with our sister-city La Rochelle, France. In fact, earlier this summer, we welcomed an official delegation, led by La Rochelle’s Mayor Maxime Bono. In order to pursue additional cultural, educational, and economic exchanges, however, we need to identify New Rochelle families who are willing to serve as hosts for French guests. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Peter Korn, the Coordinator of our Sister City Committee, at 914-235-1979 or via email at email@example.com.