Star Tribune Staff Writer

Representatives from Kenya, China and around the world held a celebration at Peavey Plaza on Friday morning to kick off the Sister Cities International’s 59th Annual Conference in Minneapolis.

The theme was Bridging Generation for Peace.

One of the main messages was the importance of getting more youth involved in the movement.

Children from the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club carried the flags representing Sister Cities at the ceremony.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges spoke about how Sister Cities promotes world peace.

"Tomorrow, we want to hand a world to our children that is more at peace than it is today," the mayor said.

Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson said it is critical to have young people participating in citizen diplomacy and making the world a better place.

"We're celebrating relationships old and new that are bringing people together,” she said.

Construction was stopped on Nicolett Mall for the event.

Johnson encouraged convention participants to come back to see the mall when construction is completed.

Dinesh Jain from Nagpur, India, said that the children need to be involved in Sister Cities because they are the future.

"They will carry the torch forward," he said.

During the weekend, Sister Cities International and Meet Minneapolis will be joined by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and actress and activist Zana Marjanović from In the Land of Blood and Honey.

Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International serves as the national membership organization for over 545 individual sister cities, counties and states across the United States. The group has ties to 2,121 communities in 145 countries on six continents.