Dozens of Mancos residents gathered at Mount Lookout Grange on Labor Day to welcome a group of tourists from their sister city in France.
Several Mancos residents have spent months preparing for the arrival of six visitors from the agricultural town of Feins, France, which became the town’s sister city in 2015.
The tourists arrived in town late Monday evening. Members of the French Farmers Accueil, a volunteer group formed just for the occasion, organized a welcome dinner for them that showcased local agricultural programs like School to Farm and the Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition.
The Grange was decked out with balloons and welcome signs in English and French outside, while the guests inside gathered around tables stocked with locally produced food. Most of the dishes featured squash, corn and beans, which the ancestral Puebloans considered the “Three Sisters” of produce, but several of them were garnished with little French flags.
Mayor Queenie Barz read an official proclamation welcoming the visitors to Mancos, and said she would love to see some of her own town’s residents visit Feins in the future.
“We’re going to have to start working on the town budget and see if we can’t send some people to France,” she said jokingly.
During the dinner, Greg Kemp gave a presentation about the history of the Grange, representatives from the Montezuma County School to Farm program talked about their accomplishments over the past few years, and Mike Nolan of the Farmers and Ranchers Coalition spoke about the importance of supporting younger farmers.
Both Mancos and Feins are in agricultural regions, and organizer Duff Simbeck said he wanted the dinner to highlight the similarities between the two towns. Mancos rancher Ryan Brown capped off the program by playing a French song called “La Maréchal Ferrant” (“The Blacksmith”) on the violin.
For Florent Bouin and his traveling companions, the stop in Mancos came in the middle of a whirlwind tour of the American Southwest. The group had already visited Los Angeles, San Diego, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in the 16 days before they arrived in Colorado, and they had several more stops planned before returning home. This is Bouin’s fifth trip to the U.S., but his first time visiting the Southwest.
“The view of the land changed every time,” he said. “Before, it was desert, and when we arrived here, it was green. It was very weird for us, because this is the first time in the West that we’ve seen the green part.”
His girlfriend, Julie Menard, said she appreciated the “lovely welcome” from the town of Mancos and was enjoying the trip so far. The couple is traveling with Bouin’s parents and their friends, Marie-Paule and Michel. The group planned to stay two nights in the historic Bauer House in Mancos before moving on to Arches National Park.
Thanks to a large crowd and limited air conditioning, the dining room in the Grange was as warm as the welcome, but the dinner attendees didn’t let the heat spoil their enthusiasm. After the presentations, the sister city residents exchanged gifts, including a photo album from Mancos and some food from Feins.