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ST. MARYS — The smell of hamburgers and brats filled the air in Memorial Park Thursday as hungry visitors lined up to get their hands on the delectable delights as part of an annual fundraiser.
The Sister Cities Youth Delegation to Japan served up lunch in the park to help raise money for its trip to Awaji City, Japan. Each year, a delegation from St. Marys visits the city’s sister city as part of a youth exchange program.
“I’m going to Japan because I love the country,” Jacquelyn Bayham, 17, of St. Marys, told The Evening Leader. “I love the culture and all the little things.”
Bayham, who also watches Japanese programming on TV, said the opportunity to travel to the island nation was one she could not pass up.
“I just want to see whatever I can,” Bayham said. “We are doing fundraising for our tickets, and they are really expensive. This will help lower the price for us.”
Evan Bader, 16, of St. Marys, is no stranger to trips to Japan. Bader’s two older sisters traveled to Japan as part of the youth delegation program.
“I wanted to go because both my sisters have gone,” Bader said. “They both said it was fun when they were there. I also want to experience the culture and meet some of the people I have met as part of the program.”
Bader’s family also has hosted visitors from Awaji City’s delegation. Like Bayham, Bader said he wanted to experience everything the Japanese culture has to offer.
“I just want to learn how our lives are different and how similar they are,” Bader said. “I think it’s a good opportunity and if you can do it, I think you should.”
To prepare for the trip, the six-member delegation will soon start attending Japanese culture classes. Bader also noted he starting trying to learn a few words.
“I have learned a few Japanese words throughout the years because my sisters have done it,” Bader said. “They would talk around us. I think it’s hard to learn. I only know a few words, though.”
McKenzie Newbauer, a sophomore at Memorial High School, said her trip to Japan was inspired by her mother.
“My mom was always interested in it and she wanted to go when she was younger,” Newbauer said. “I like learning about Japanese culture, watching the movies and learning about what they eat. My mom always inspired me to do that.”
The delegation is slated to leave on its trip the last week of July. An Awaji City youth delegation will return with the local delegation on Aug. 6 for a seven-day visit.