Mayor Rob Sawatzky (left) and John Topping look at a photo album from a previous tour to Modesto

Mayor Rob Sawatzky (left) and John Topping look at a photo album from a previous tour to Modesto

Tour renews a special bond

Sister cities, Vernon and Modesto, Calif., re-unite

It can sometimes be tough for siblings to get along, but Vernon and one of its sister cities have kept a healthy relationship going for 30 years.

In 1982, the mayor at the time, Lyall Hanson, welcomed the city of Modesto, Calif. into the family. Since then there have been many exchanges and tours.

On Friday, a group of 50 Vernon residents will once again make a visit to the sister city.

Some of the Sun Fun Tour attendees include former mayor Wayne McGrath and former councillor Jack Gilroy.

“I think it’s very important to keep the relations up with the other cities. Modesto was our first one and they’ve been coming here for 30 years, and we’ve just kept it going,” said Gilroy.

Tour co-ordinator John Topping has toured Modesto nearly 20 times and is excited to continue building on the relationship.

“I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends. I’ve made many trips and you develop a really close acquaintance with many of the people down there,” said Topping.

The trip goes for 12 days and includes visits to Reno, Monterey, San Francisco and of course, Modesto.

The group will be travelling by bus until the final leg of the trip when the tour takes to the coastal waters for two nights aboard the Golden Princess on their way to Vancouver before heading back to Vernon.

While Topping knows how good the entire trip will be, it’s the Modesto portion that has him excited the most.

“Modesto is a very similar city. It’s a fruit belt, it’s agricultural and it’s tourism. It’s a big city and some very famous people have come from Modesto,” said Topping.

“It’s definitely the highlight.”

Mayor Rob Sawatzky notes how great it is to see a local group dedicated to building on these sister city relationships.

“I know they are very experienced, knowledgable and good representatives, some of them have a real kind of tradition with this, it’s great,” he said.


The group of Vernon residents will participate in  a civic reception May 16 in Modesto to celebrate the 30th anniversary.