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Friday, 30 May 2014 10:07

Mission: Chester

Delegation Seals The Sister City Deal


SARATOGA SPRINGS AND CHESTER, ENGLAND – A group of local citizens and individuals, using only private funds, are expected shortly to hear that their invitation to form Saratoga Springs’ second Sister City relationship; with Chester, England has been formally accepted. The first, with Chekhov, Russia was seen as a relationship that had its roots in cultural and artistic exchanges. Should the Saratoga Springs-Chester relationship be realized, enormous impacts could be felt in economic, racing, education and other areas. 


Bob Giordano, a key member of the delegation, recounted the origins of the idea; how the process played out to this point; and the potential next steps in the process of this important development.


Origins: When one door closes, another opens


“It all began in 2012 when Kay Kent and her husband Steve, owners of steeplechase horses in Chester, England, saw that there was to be a Steeplechase Festival that fall in Saratoga. I was co-chair of this event and they contacted me.” Bob Giordano said. “After purchasing their tickets, the event was unexpectedly cancelled, but they decided to come any way and see first-hand the famed Saratoga Springs.”  


Bob and his wife Michele Erceg hosted them for their visit. They were given the full tour. “They saw the race course, training at Oklahoma, The National Museum of Racing, toured SPAC, shopped the downtown businesses, dined at a few of the many restaurants Saratoga offers and were given welcome gifts by Mike D’Anzeris of Embrace The Race. They loved the town and went back home with the impression that most visitors get when they visit Saratoga for the first time, saying, ‘What a great little place!’” 


A year later in July of 2013, Bob attended a presentation in the City Center given by Paul Roberts of Turnberry consulting that outlined proposed enhancements to the Saratoga Race Course. Paul stopped Bob, saying, “Kay Kent says to say ‘Hello’!” Paul was working with Kay in England in her role as Chair of the Cheshire Racing Hub, on a proposal that her institution, the University of Chester, was developing to offer the first Masters degree in racing in Europe. Bob sent a note to Kay to rekindle the friendship. 


“Over the next few months of conversation, the idea of establishing a Sister City relationship between the two cities – the oldest racecourse in the United States and the oldest racecourse in the United Kingdom, Chester, began to develop.” Giordano said.


First, the City of Chester presented two historic prints of the Chester Race Course to the City of Saratoga Springs to acknowledge our 150th Anniversary of Racing at an event at the National Museum of Racing last August. Charles Wait accepted them in his role as Chairman of the Anniversary event. The gifts are on display in the Saratoga Springs City Center. 


“Mr. Wait thanked Chester and stated that he would like to return the gesture in May of 2014 on the occasion of the 475th Anniversary celebration of that Race Course, one that is still surrounded by the Roman walls built in 100AD and completed by the Normans in 1100.” Giordano noted.


Giordano contacted local members of the Chekhov Sister City committee as well as Sister Cities International about the proper procedures. As a result “A formal Letter of Invitation was authorized by the Saratoga Springs City Council and signed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen on April 25.” He said. Charles and Candace Wait, Bob Giordano and Michele Erceg carried that letter to Chester. 


“Mr. Wait, as the Mayor’s Ambassador-at-Large presented the letter to The Lord Mayor of Chester, Councillor Jill Houlbrook. There were also letters of support from the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, The National Museum of Racing, the Saratoga Polo Association and the Saratoga Springs Rotary Club.” Giordano said.


Along with these, Chester was presented with an original oil painting by Saratoga Springs’ Rumara Jewett titles “Morning At The Whitney Stand”. 


The painting is full of symbolism. It depicts the newly erected viewing structure at the Oklahoma Training facility and includes personalities who have ties to both Saratoga Springs and Chester. For example, the rider on the gray in the center of the painting, Danny Wright, was a former jockey who at 17 won his first race at Chester. He was born less than a mile from the racecourse and resides every year in Saratoga for the Oklahoma training season. For more information about the painting, visit rumara.com


While in Chester the Saratoga Delegation was hosted at the Directors’ Suite at the Chester Race Course on May 9. The visitors were given a tour of the Race Course facility, the town with its historic Cathedral and the training yards of prominent racehorse flat and steeplechase trainers. The differences and similarities between US and UK racing were explored and discussions of the potential benefits of the Sister City relationship, with specifics, occurred throughout the visit.


“Mr. Wait provided Saratoga 150 Adirondack Trust ties and scarves to our Chester hosts and I left copies of Paul Roberts’ book “The Spa” as mementos of the visit.” Giordano recalls. “Kay Kent was given gifts from N. Fox and Dennis DeJonghe jewelers in recognition for her effort at coordinating the many aspects of the Saratoga delegation visit and the Sister City effort.” It’s important to note again that all of the expenses for this visit were privately funded. 


Next Steps

When asked what the next steps were, Bob Giordano indicated that there is a formal process to establish a Sister City. “Now that a letter of Invitation has been presented to the Lord Mayor of Chester, Chester will send a reply of acceptance, indicating the willingness to partner with Saratoga Springs. Next an agreement is formulated that will list the contact individuals in each city and the goals to be achieved.” He said. “Once that plan is agreed to, the Mayors of Chester and Saratoga Springs sign a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the partnership.”


Looking ahead “the intent is to start slowly and accomplish one or two projects in the near term.”  Once details are defined, the Chester Racing Hub, as part of their Masters Program in Racing, will partner with NYRA via board member Charles Wait to provide an internship for a graduate student pursuing a career in the racing industry to learn about American racing. This could occur as early as the summer of 2015.”  


Another item of interest is for the Chester Polo Club to visit Saratoga Springs to play a match with Saratoga Club members, eventually leading to a match between the two cities - a second “Battle of Saratoga”. There was also high interest in the Saratoga Warhorse Program, as there is currently University research into this area in the UK as well. “An informational exchange of this type is exactly what a Sister City partnership is meant to address.” Giordano said.


Other things that are possible include Convention and Tourism exchanges. The idea has been broached to develop a “Sister Cities Passport” for visitors to both cities that could provide local hosts and access to entertainment venues such as NYRA, SPAC, UPH as well as merchant and room discounts. Similar hosting would take place in Chester.


Down the road, the business communities of the two cities, via their respective Chambers of Commerce, could develop exchanges. Exchanges between the University of Chester and Skidmore College are possible, as they could be for High Schools. 



Citizens with additional thoughts about developing this connection are encouraged to contact Bob Giordano at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (518) 527-1496.

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