Littleton turns out crowd to welcome Aussies

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Littleton said g’day Aug. 15 to two dozen fair dinkin Aussies with a ripper rage for cobbers old and new, as well as several local journos and pollies, and everyone was feeling true blue.

Translation: Littleton welcomed two dozen genuine Australians Aug. 15 with a great party for friends old and new, as well as several local journalists and politicians, and everyone was feeling patriotic.

“I have never felt prouder,” Barb Westmacott, president of the Bega chapter of the Bega/Littleton Sister City Exchange, told the group gathered in downtown’s Bega Park to greet Aussies. “The friends we have here are like family. I have to say, even though it’s a throw-away line, it’s like coming home.”

In fact, Bega’s downtown is reminiscent of Littleton’s, a narrow street lined with small shops in historic buildings. But Bega has rolling green fields and ocean shores on its outskirts instead of panoramic mountain views.

“We like the Rocky Mountains, but we like our friends better,” said Phil McDonald. This is his sixth trip to Littleton with his wife, Loretta. They’re excited this time to visit Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, a Western art show and the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant in Denver.

The L/BSCE was established by former Littleton Independent publisher Houstoun Waring and Curly Annabel, the editor of a newspaper in Bega, after the U.S. State Department and U.S. Information Agency made “Small Town Editor” in 1951. The agencies showed it in foreign countries to encourage an independent press to compete with government-controlled news. It was filmed in Littleton and featured Waring, who had achieved national recognition for his editorials on foreign affairs.

According to begalittleton.org, Annabel saw the film and was entranced by the similarities between the towns and their newspapers. He reached out, and a friendship was born that became the first of many federal sister-city programs. Residents have taken turns visiting each other ever since — Littleton sends a delegation to Bega in the first and sixth years of the decade, and Bega citizens visit Littleton in the third and eighth years.

Although they were very similar when the exchange was formalized in 1961, Littleton, with more than 40,000 residents, has grown to nearly 10 times the population of its sister city. Bega has maintained its agricultural heritage and is best known for its production of dairy products.

“What I like best about Bega are the people, the friendships that are made and the closeness of our group,” said Elfi Smith, president of the Littleton chapter. “But the attraction to go there is the rural element – the farms, the horses. It’s just so down to earth.”

McDonald said the delegation was very much looking forward to riding in Western Welcome Week’s Grand Parade on Aug. 17, as they don’t have an annual parade in Bega. They do have an agricultural festival similar to the county fair, with farmers showing off their produce and ladies entering jam and baked goods for judging.

During the welcoming party, Sen. Linda Newell presented the Aussies with a senatorial proclamation, the new “Bega Street” sign was unveiled to officially rename the section of Rio Grande Avenue that runs adjacent to the park, and former city manager Larry Borger led the crowd in singing “Waltzing Matilda.” He explained that “waltzing” means “roaming” in Australia, and Matilda is thought to be the wanderer’s bedroll. He believes the song is a reminder not to take life too seriously.

“Be thankful you’re free,” he told the crowd. “Be proud of where you are and where you came from.”