The sister city relationship with Tours, France, commenced in 1991. One of the nicknames Tours bears is “Le Jardin de la France” or the Garden of France. Both cities have a passion and propensity for promoting parks and outdoor spaces; just one of the many reasons the relationship between Tours and Minneapolis has flourished.
In honor of the strength and longevity of this relationship, the government of Tours asked Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota to be the featured destination at the 2017 Foire de Tours, a regional festival that attracts over 300,000 people annually. Minneapolis was promoted regionally through billboards, bus stops, radio and print advertising in Tours and the surrounding area.
On a historical note, during the first World War, a force of 25,000 American soldiers arrived in 1917. With the Americans, Tours set up textile factories for the manufacture of uniforms, repair shops for military equipment, munitions dumps, an army post office and an American military hospital at Augustins. Today a major university, the François Rabelais, serves the city and the Tours airport connects passengers from the Loire Valley with London and Dublin. The centennial of World War I events added to the significance of this visit.
At the Foire de Tours, Minneapolis was in charge of creating a restaurant with a Minnesota chef and cuisine, expo pavilion featuring Minneapolis businesses, recreation, arts and history, and supplying entertainment during the 10-day festival.
Explore Minnesota Tourism and Hennepin County became our partners and helped form a beautiful pavilion which featured expositions from Minnesota businesses, arts organizations, sports teams, schools, Minnesota history and many other great representations.
The exhibit also featured an important American Indian presence through the American Indian Movement (AIM) Interpretive Center selling wild rice and other American Indian goods while educating people on the American Indian history in Minnesota. American Indian singers from Midnite Express and dancers from Native Pride were the daily highlighted entertainment during the festival. The people in France loved watching the American Indian performers and each performance drew a very large crowd. Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of AIM, was in Tours and helped to tell personal stories of American Indian culture to a French audience hungry for authenticity.
We also partnered with Minnesota chef, Sean Sherman, and his company, The Sioux Chef, to create a restaurant at the Foire de Tours. Sherman prepares American Indian cuisine and created a menu using bison, walleye and wild rice. He then trained the French culinary team how to prepare his food for the guests at the Foire de Tours. Foire de Tours visitors consumed 6,000 meals in the Minnesota restaurant.
The Minneapolis pavilion also featured four French tour operators who sell vacation packages to Minnesota to talk to guests about visiting. We partnered with Delta Air Lines to give away a seven-day vacation to Minneapolis.
As a result, over the 10 days of the Foire de Tours, we estimated that more than 75,000 people came through the Minneapolis pavilion and learned about Minneapolis, Hennepin County and Minnesota. This is an unparalleled opportunity to boost our awareness among French visitors and we will track the increase of visitors over the coming months and years.
Meet Minneapolis senior vice president of Public Affairs, Bill Deef, was the driving strategic force behind the events in France. Meet Minneapolis team members Jake Juliot, David Nguyen, Cheryl Offerman and Michael Rainville all played key roles in the planning and execution of these events. Minneapolis - Tours Sister City Association president Gail Beske also was an integral part of making this event a reality. In addition, over 90 people from Minneapolis came to Tours during this festival to volunteer to represent Minneapolis.
I would like to personally thank them all for going above the call of duty to ensure the success of what is the largest international tourism marketing deployment in the history of Meet Minneapolis. Merci mes amis!