WORTHINGTON — Just 20 months into his term as Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Crailsheim, Germany, Dr. Christoph Grimmer can now say he has visited all four of his community’s sister cities.

Grimmer arrived in Worthington late Thursday night to take part in the community’s King Turkey Day celebration, joining a contingent of two dozen Crailsheimers who arrived at various times during the past week. Grimmer will join Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle on the parade route this afternoon, following his duties as one of the race officials for the Great Gobbler Gallop. He will return to Crailsheim Sunday night as that community prepares for its annual Volksfest celebration next weekend.

On Friday, Grimmer was officially welcomed to Worthington during a gathering at City Hall that included Kuhle, former Worthington mayors Alan Oberloh and Bob Demuth and numerous supporters of the sister city partnership.

Born and raised in Crailsheim, Grimmer is well familiar with the now 72-year relationship between his community in southern Germany and Worthington — a storied partnership that, at its roots, involved 11-year-olds Martha Cashel and Patsy Bartz, and their Finnish penpal, Kerttu Siekkinnen. Through their initial contact, the Cashel family in Worthington realized the great need in European communities at the end of World War II. Hence began the search for a like-sized community in which to adopt.

Crailsheim residents were the benefactors of donation drives conducted in Worthington that led to shipments of clothing, shoes, seeds, soaps and school supplies to the war-torn German community.

“I’m always very grateful when I think of the origin and the humanitarian interest of the girls after the second World War to help us in Crailsheim,” Grimmer said Friday morning.

Grimmer was a lecturer, author and publisher in sports communications prior to entering politics in 2016 to work as deputy press spokesman for the FDP in the Hamburg Parliament and personal advisor to Parliamentarian Katja Suding. In November 2017, he was one of 12 candidates vying for mayor of Crailsheim and received 56.9% of the vote to win the election.

Grimmer began his eight-year term on Feb. 1, 2018, and this summer he was also elected to the Schwabisch Hall council.

“It’s a big honor to work for my hometown,” he said. “I think the people recognize that I want the best for Crailsheim.”

Grimmer said he hopes to strengthen the bonds and connections that exist between the two communities.

At 72 years, the Worthington-Crailsheim partnership is the longest sister-city relationship in existence in the world. Crailsheim’s next longest partnership is 50 years (celebrated this year) with Pamiers, France. In 2020, Crailsheim will celebrate two sister-city friendships of 20 years — with Bilgoraj, Poland and Jurbarkas, Lithuania.

Of the 26 Crailsheimers visiting Worthington this weekend, most are returning guests, including the Keller family, who has spent the past week with Jason and Joan Johnson in Worthington. The Kellers were host families to former exchange students Jaron Sternke and Skyla Rautenkranz.

Thomas Keller will be in today’s King Turkey Day parade, while his wife, Manuela, and children Lucas and Anna will be watching along the parade route. This is their first time visiting Worthington during the annual September celebration, and Lucas said, “It’s really exciting.”

So exciting that he created a chant to cheer Worthington’s racing turkey, Paycheck, on during the Great Gobbler Gallop.

The family has toured several sites in the area, and traveled to Winona to visit Sternke and to Moorhead to visit Rautenkranz in the past week.

Twenty of the German guests traveled together to the United States, landing in Salt Lake City, Utah, earlier this month. Renting four vans, the group toured the canyon lands of Utah, traversed the mountains in Colorado and passed through a bit of Wyoming and across South Dakota before arriving in Worthington on Wednesday. From here, they will head to Chicago on Sunday for a Monday flight home to Germany.

Most of them are taking part in KTD festivities, including Thursday evening’s mixer, Friday’s Fowl Play and various Saturday activities. One will be running in the KTD 10K. Special events planned for the Crailsheim and Cuero, Texas guests included a fish fry, boat rides on Lake Okabena, tours of Forbidden Barrel Brewing Co. and invites to the Mayor’s Brunch on Saturday.