In February 1992 the City of Columbia invited the City of Gedern to take part in the US American “people to people program” with the goal to establish a partnership.
Previously citizens of Columbia had visited Gedern individually to search for their German ancestors. They had been successful in Wernings near Wenings, a district of Gedern.
The contacts, resulting from these visits and discoveries, were to be integrated into an official sister city arrangement between Columbia/Illinois and Gedern so relations could develop on this basis.
After the “Declaration of Friendship“ from April 29, 1992, the Mayors Lester Schneider of Columbia and Rainer Schwarz of Gedern signed the proclamation of the sister city arrangement on May 8, 1993. Also on this day Barbara Gundlach, President at that time of Verschwisterungsverein Gedern (Sister Cities of Gedern), was designated an honorary citizen of Columbia.
On May 7, 1993, Bill Clinton, then president of the USA, in his congratulation letter to Columbia stated that the partnership helped to overcome the barriers between our nations and to improve the relationships between people across the oceans.
Since then, according to the “people to people program”, official delegations from Gedern were in Columbia in 1993, 1997, 2002, 2005 and 2009. Delegations from Columbia were in Gedern in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007.The next visit is scheduled for September 2011 in Gedern.
Columbia Plaza shows the importance of the sister city arrangement in Gedern. In Columbia, a street was named after Gedern; five years ago the new part of the town was called Gedern Village, and October 6, 2001, was declared Sister City of Gedern, Germany, Day by the State of Illinois.
In view of the good cooperation between the two cities, Reader' s Digest gave the Sister City Award to Gedern in 1993 for its share in securing world peace and understanding among nations by the sister city arrangement with Columbia, Illinois.