Five Huelben residents spent the weekend in Madison County, touring schools, local businesses, historic sites and more.
The visit was part of a partnership between the county and the German municipality. The partnership was created via an adopted resolution, signed by the Madison County Board of Supervisors in April 2015 and encouraged by county resident and frequent Huelben visitor John Underwood. Underwood, who lived in Germany for many years, facilitated the partnership with Huelben mayor or Buergermeister Siegmund Ganser. The visit marked the first in the partnership which Underwood hopes will eventually evolve into a type of foreign exchange program in which high school students can travel to Germany and stay with Huelben families.
Ganser was among those who visited the county over the weekend. He was joined by Manuel Stokinger, Jörg Bizer, vice mayor Jochen Dümmel and Julian Hermle. The group was accompanied by supervisors Charlotte Hoffman, who helped organize the visit, Steve Hoffman and Underwood. Various county and school officials also participated, including Madison County Administrator Jack Hobbs and his wife, Peggy, Madison County Historical Society President Max Lacy, Town of Madison Vice Mayor Nancy Knighting and Madison County Economic Development and Tourism Director Tracey Gardner.
After arriving Thursday night and getting settled into accommodations at Graves Mountain Lodge, the Huelben delegation spent the weekend touring Wetsel Middle School, Clore Furniture, Madison Wood Preservers, Prince Michel Winery, Germanna, Hebron Lutheran Church, Bald Top Brewery, Monticello and Plow and Hearth with a drive through the University of Virginia campus. The group dined at Bonano’s Restaurant, Bavarian Chef, It’s About Thyme, Silk Mill Grill, Michie Tavern and the Lafayette Inn with breakfast daily at Graves Mountain Lodge. Meals and lodging were paid for utilizing $5,000 in funds from the Transportation Occupancy Tax (TOT) fund. Beverages were purchased through donations from several local businessmen including Seann Gregg, Pete Elliott, Clint Hyde and Mike Mosko. The group departed Monday.
Hoffman said they were pleased with everything they did during their time in Madison, but especially loved visiting Wetsel and Monticello. At Clore, the group inspected various pieces of furniture and learned about the creation process from president Troy Coppage. They also showed off their own wooden wares with Stokinger displaying his wooden watch—a wristwatch made out of wood.
“This was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had getting to know these people,” Hoffman said.
Up next in the cultural exchange is a possible trip to Huelben. Hoffman said ideally, they’d like Madisonians to visit within a year.