Winnipeg has 11 Sister Cities around the world: Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan; Reykjavík, Iceland; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Lviv, Ukraine; Manila, Philippines; Taichung, Taiwan; Kuopio, Finland; Be'er-Sheva, Israel; Chengdu, China; Cinju, South Korea; and San Nicolás de los Garza, Mexico.
I propose that we add one more: Rockton, Illinois....
As the temperature soared to 2 degrees today I got that familiar tickle in my throat. There was just one thing to do: pull immediately into the nearest 7-11 and get a Slurpee. As I waited in line - yes, there was a line - I thought to myself "who are the wonderful men and women that produce this technology that gives Winnipeggers so much pleasure" ? (well, actually, the FIRST thing I thought was "come-on people, you're not making a quiche, let's get a move on").
We love our Slurpees. We're the six-time Slurpee Capital drinking 40,000 per month. If someone could document the quantity of knock-off 'slurpees' sold at every chain convenience store and gas station in town I am sure that the WHO would airlift a team of health workers in to save us. We make movies about them, we cover them in gold and make them public art.
But where do these magical machines come from ?
According to mySlurpeecup.com the Taylor brand machine is used in most of Canada while the Cornelius is favoured in the U.S.. Not sure why the different machines but here's a tidbit from 7-11's own Slurpee.com website: 'American Slurpee is injected with air. Canadian Slurpee is not.' Hmmm...
Taylor manufactures our machines in a 339,000 square foot facility plant in, you guessed it, Rockton, Illinois - do these puppies look familiar ?! Though, for the record, 7-11 says that of the "bona fide" variation of the machine there's only one privately owned one in the world - the rest are owned by 7-11.
What of this future sister Rockton, Illionois ? It's a small, historic village of 5,200 people in Winnibego County, (pop 278,418), just inside the Illinois / Wisconsin border. It's about an hour and a half northwest of Chicago.
We have them beat on size but there are some interesting similarities:
- Town founder, Stephen Mack, was an agent of the American Fur Trading Company and set up a trading post in the area. The townsite, like Winnipeg, was to be a mercantile centre supporting the fur trade.
- The original settlement was at the fork of the Pecatonica and Rock Rivers. He named the place “Pekatonic” which translates to "muddy stream" in the Winnebego Indians' language. Of course, we're at the Red and Assiniboine and named after the Cree word for "muddy water".
- Demographically there are similarities. Aboriginals and whites intermarried very early - in fact, Mack's wife was aboriginal. French Canadians, too, settled in the region because of the fur trade and are thought to have set up their posts a few years prior to the Americans.
- The original trading post has been reconstructed, including Mack's house. It's located a few miles outside of the twonsite and is called "Macktown" a living heritage centre, similar to Lower Fort Garry. "Hundreds of re-enactors establish a village at Macktown and demonstrate frontier life and Native American culture from the 1650s through the 1850s."
Aside from some historic coincidences, having Rockton as a Sister City could encourage more travel and tourism for both centres as they are only 1250 km apart - about a 12 hour drive. For us to get there you need to go through our only other U.S. Sister City - Minneapolis.
Rockton has two main tourist events per year: The Macktown Gathering, which takes place each April at the historic site, and The Christmas Walk in early December which includes parades and a Festival of Lights in the town centre. OUR main Tourist Festivals are Festival du Voyageur in February and and Folklorama in August. A perfectly spaced group of events for us to share.
Oh and there's one more thing we'd have to share. You see, even though Rockton builds our Slurpee machines, they don't have a 7 11 for miles around.
And that, ladies and gentlemen of the .... internet ..... is my case for Rockton and Winnipeg becoming Sister Cities.