Celebrate St. Charles’ Sister Cities this spring at Midwest Maifest and the Missouri River Irish Fest. These festivals raise money for their respective Sister City’s student and adult exchange programs. St. Charles currently has two Sister Cities: Ludwigsburg, Germany and Inishowen, Ireland and schools from both partner with schools in St. Charles to do an annual two week long exchange. In 2024, the German St. Charles Sister Cities Chapter is sending local brewers to Ludwigsburg to see the centuries old art of beer brewing in Germany.


The St. Charles Sister Cities program began in 1994 as a way to cultivate a relationship through different social, cultural, business, and educational exchanges between cities from around the world. Sister Cities are chosen based on a shared characteristic(s) like geography, heritage, and size. For example, Ludwigsburg is similar in size to St. Charles and it’s close to Stuttgart, a Sister City of St. Louis. Inishowen is quite the opposite as it’s a rural community, but it’s similar to St. Charles because it gets overlooked by foreign tourists wanting to visit big cities like Dublin (and for St. Charles, New York City and Los Angeles in the United States) even though it is a fun destination spot.


Midwest Maifest


Midwest Maifest is a German festival that celebrates the arrival of spring. Organized by the German St. Charles Sister Cities Chapter, this festival is on May 19th in New Town St. Charles. “This event maintains the visibility of German heritage within the community, reminding people of the impact that Germans had on St. Charles’ history,” St. Charles-Ludwigsburg Sister Cities President, Mary Johnson said.


It begins with the hoisting of the maibaum, a tall, colorful pole with symbols, shields, long ribbons, and a wreath attached to it. The maibaum symbolizes the fruitfulness and the reawakening of spring. This free event features food vendors, artisans, and live entertainment, although a ticket must be purchased in order to sample different craft beers, wines, and spirits on hand. “There’s a special energy in the air,” Johnson said. “Live music is played on the Main Stage 99% of the time and when the band needs a break, other entertainment groups step in. There’s no lull in the excitement.”


Missouri River Irish Fest


To get a taste of Inishowen, celebrate all things Irish at the Irish St. Charles Sister City Chapter’s Missouri River Irish Festival. On May 24th through the 26th, don green and head to the parking lot of the Lewis & Clark Boathouse and Museum along the Missouri River for the festival. Listen to live music, take the kids to the Wee Folk Village for crafts and inflatables, shop at the retail and food vendors, learn something new in the Irish Cultural exhibit, and even visit an Irish pub for whiskey and Fire Farms tastings, pub contests, and Guinness Perfect Pour. This year’s lineup includes performances on Friday and Saturday from The Elders, a Celtic rock band that has been inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. “We want to share the beauty and experiences of Inishowen and Irish culture with the people of St. Charles,” representative of the Irish Sister Cities Chapter, Carla O’Dell said. “Our goal is to have a lot of ‘craic’ which is Irish for ‘good fun.’”


Irish Fest Jewelry


The Missouri River Irish Fest occurs to raise funds for the student exchange with Inishowen, Ireland. This Sister City has sweeping views of lush meadows and the vast Atlantic Ocean in the Northern part of Ireland, much different than the views here. “To see the change in the students after the exchange program is amazing,” O’Dell said. “The opportunity to study abroad for two weeks opens their eyes to a different culture. They leave changed and many stay in touch with their host families for the rest of their lives.”


Celebrate St. Charles’ heritage and Sister Cities this May at Midwest Maifest and the Missouri River Irish Fest. Not only are they exciting festivals, they are a way to help send students abroad, strengthening St. Charles’ international relationships.