Littleton is changing a street name to honor its sister city, Bega, Australia.
A delegation from Bega will be in town Aug. 14-24, so the City Council last week approved changing the name of the block of South Rio Grande Street between Main Street and Alamo Avenue to Bega Street.
The name change will be in place when the city hosts a welcome reception for the Down Under delegation in Bega Park on Aug. 15.
“That will be a very nice recognition of our sister city when they come,” said Elfi Smith, a president of the Bega/Littleton Sister City Exchange.
Smith has been a part of the exchange for 30 years and has led several trips to Bega. She said Bega, on the southeast coast of Australia with a population of about 5,000, reminds her of Littleton before it became developed.
“It’s very much like Littleton was 30 to 40 years ago. It is very agricultural,” Smith said. “When you get to Bega, it is a beautiful valley of nothing but agriculture. … They are wonderfully open, friendly people.”
That openness and friendliness remind Smith of people here in the United States. It is one of the reasons she always feels at home in Australia and why, when people from Bega visit, they say the same thing about the United States.
“Australians are sort of like Americans,” Smith said. “The Australians have the same pioneering spirit that I think exists in America. They are so open, and they are so entrepreneurial, compared to Europeans. They are wonderful.”
The relationship between the two cities started in 1961 after a newspaper editor in Bega saw a U.S. State Department film that featured a Littleton newspaper editor, Houston Waring. When the Australian editor reached out to Waring, it started a relationship between the two towns that has lasted more than 50 years.
The towns send delegates across the Pacific Ocean every five years. A Littleton delegation is set to visit Bega again in 2016.
Bega has returned the favor of naming a park and other landmarks in Littleton’s honor. During the Littleton group’s last visit, Bega dedicated a memorial to the victims of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.
“They put a big stone monument there. It was so heart-warming to see how they follow our tragedies,” Smith said. “When we’re down there, there isn’t a moment where we’re not somehow welcomed in some way or another.”