Missoula’s Kiwi Connection
What do Palmerston, North Manawatu, New Zealand and Missoula Montana have in common? Even though they are on opposite sides of the planet, and the Kiwis celebrate Christmas in their summertime, it turns out we have a lot in common.
Why have our two communities decided pair up with the blessing and assistance of the Sister Cities International organization since 1982? In addition to each having a university and a river, check out these other similarities.
2019 marked the second visit to Missoula by Jules and Toni Grace and their two young girls. Their first visit here happened in October 2018 as a bit of a whirlwind tour. This time, the Graces’ goal was to fully immerse themselves in Missoula by setting aside eight weeks to get true a feel for the vibe of the city and to meet as many Missoulians as possible. With J-1 & J-2 visas in hand, the family boarded their flight from New Zealand for the long journey back to Montana.
Toni is International Relations Manager for Palmerstown. She and her husband Jules jointlly own and operate the only brewpub in town, Brew Union Brewing Company. Toni’s primary mission on this trip was to more fully connect Missoula and Missoulians with their hometown. While Jules was preparing for the trip, he paired up with the brewmasters at Draught Works to develop a new Sister City Collaboration IPA by combining New Zealand hops and Montana barley.
Their two young girls enjoyed Halloween American style. They described NZ Halloween as ‘lame’. Their candy bags were filled to the brim in just a couple of blocks. Their youngest Kiwi spent time at a local preschool. It was much more structured and more advanced, like kindergarten in her home country. Their older daughter attended a Missoula public middle school. She quickly made great friendships, played clarinet with the school band, and scored an A in Spanish.
The family donned their best maroon and took in a Griz game at the University of Montana. During the proclaimed New Zealand Day in Missoula, the family watched a Rugby game (their national sport) with friends, NZ’s national sport. As with any visitors’ bucket lists, they made road trips to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.
Toni rounded out their time in Missoula by tending to sister city details, along with checking in on things at the brewery back home. Missoula’s city government and business leaders had plenty of topics and ideas to cover and build the relationship with with trade, diplomacy, and culture looking ahead.
As a fun traditional New Zealand leave-behind, Toni let us know they spend the final couple days of this visit hiding some “Palmy Rocks” around a couple of Missoula parks as a way to say “thanks” for the Montana hospitality. (Hint:) You just might find one or two of these treasures around Silver’s Park & Lagoon.