This story is the second part of a series on the relationship between Glens Falls and Saga City, Japan. Click here for part 1; Click here for part 2; and keep an eye on for more.

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Friday morning, Mayor Bill Collins addressed a group of visitors to City Hall. It wasn’t the first time he’s done so this year, but may be the first time he’s done it as not the only mayor in the room.

A delegation from Saga City, Japan, arrived in Glens Falls on Thursday night, for a weekend of touring and celebration of the relationship between Saga and Glens Falls. The two communities are celebrating their 35th anniversary as sister cities this year – and Saga’s new mayor got to make his first visit.

“I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for the warm welcome we’ve been given,” said Saga Mayor Hidetaka Sakai. “I am very happy that this morning, when some members of our delegation were walking around, people in the city were saying hello to them. We were very grateful.”

The delegation of more than 20 Saga residents was received at a welcome party Thursday night at the Queensbury Hotel. The visit is the first since 2019, after which travel between the two communities was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Founded by a mutual love for hot air balloon festivals, the sister cities have welcomed over 300 students from between their communities, all over three decades.

Friday morning was a first for both Sakai and Collins, the latter now in just his second year as Glens Falls mayor. Collins spoke to the delegation about local history, including how Glens Falls got its name (legend tells it was won over a poker game). He also emphasized how he and his fellow mayor have similar paths ahead of them.

“We have about two and a half more years to do what we can. So far, for me, it’s been great, but it can be a little overwhelming.”

The visit serves as a re-strengthening of a bond dating back decades – and that strength was demonstrated by the giving of gifts. Collins was joined at the podium by local artist Anthony Richichi to unveil an Adirondack Chair, hand-painted with the likeness of Glens Falls City Hall, with hot air balloons along the arms – evocative of both Glens Falls’ Adirondack Balloon Festival, and Saga’s own Saga Balloon Fiesta. It’s the artist’s second project of its kind, a smaller sibling to a jumbo-sized chair placed downtown in 2022. In return, Sakai presented Collins with a carved wooden statuette of a hot air balloon.

Saga City, Japan Mayor Hidetaka Sakai enjoys a sit in an Adirondack Chair presented as a gift by the city of Glens Falls, N.Y. The chair was painted by local artist Anthony Richichi, and marks 35 years of partnership between the two communities.

Like the student exchange program and the balloon festivals that have seen travelers between countries, Friday’s visit was also about cross-cultural education. Saga visitors asked Collins questions about the Glens Falls region’s economy, major industries, and sports. One delegation member mentioned that Saga recently added its own major sports arena.

“I think we should explore ways that athletes and musicians can become part of this exchange in the future,” said Collins. “One of the biggest events at our civic center was a famous college basketball player (Jimmer Fredette, currently a point guard for the Shanghai Sharks basketball team) came back.”

Throughout the visit, questions and answers were all translated by Glens Falls resident and Japan native Milly Koh, a founding member of the sister cities partnership.

City Hall was just the start of a long day for the delegation, which faces a busy weekend schedule before heading back to the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. A tour across the city and region started off at Crandall Public Library, where the delegation learned about library sorting systems, visited the Folklife Center, and saw a display honoring the sister city. Other stops for the weekend included Davidson Bros. Brewery and a trip to Lake George.