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Darwin mayor chats with Australian sister city
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Feb. 16, 2015

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DARWIN, MN, AU – There are very few things Australia and Minnesota have in common, especially this time of year, when there is a 65-degree difference in air temperature.

One commonality, however, is they are both home to the city of Darwin.

Last week, Darwin, MN, Mayor Josh Johnson chatted for the second time with the sister city’s radio station, 105.7 ABC.

The live radio chat came on Darwin Day, a day commemorating the birth of the scientist and the town’s namesake, Charles Darwin.

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory, Australia with a population of 136,245. The Minnesota city of Darwin has a population of 350.

Johnson first chatted with morning radio show host Richard Margetson Nov. 24.

Margetson told listeners he considered chatting with Darwin, Australia Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim about her trip to China. Instead, Margetson chose to talk with the mayor of Darwin, MN, home of the biggest ball of twine.

“Nobody has bestowed that title upon me,” Johnson told Margetson, referring to the Lord Mayor. “But maybe it will catch on,” he added.

As the two talked about the weather, Margetson shared how “very hot” it was there, while Johnson shared that the weather in Darwin, Minnesota, was quite the contrary.

“It’s terrible,” Johnson told Margetson.

At 15 degrees and 30 mile-per-hour wind gusts, late-November was “unseasonably cold,” Johnson shared.

Getting down to one of the main reasons Johnson was contacted, he shared with Australian listeners the story of Darwin being the home of largest ball of twine (made by one man).

“Why is Darwin Twine Town?” Margetson asked Johnson.

Johnson told the story of Francis Johnson, who started rolling his first piece of twine in 1950, and didn’t stop until 1979.

The ball of twine weighs 8.7 tons, is 11 feet high, and measures 40 feet in diameter, Johnson told the listeners in Australia.

He also shared that for the people of Darwin, the ball of twine is a focus of town pride.

“It’s the twine that binds,” Johnson said.

He also shared how each summer, on the second Saturday in August, the residents, both past and present, come together for the Twine Ball Celebration.

Margetson shared how Darwin, Australia has a similar festival put on by the Darwin Lions Club each year known as the Beer Can Regatta.

For the festival, participants build and race boats made out of beer cans.

“Sounds like a very worthy cause,” said Johnson, who also happens to be a Darwin (MN) Lions Club member.

The two also touched on a seven-minute song by Weird Al Yankovic, “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” which was also played at the end of the broadcast.

“How do you relate to the song?” Margetson asked.

“We completely embrace it,” Johnson told him. “It brought us great notoriety.” He even noted that there were visitors from Darwin, AU who have signed the visitor’s book.

Margetson ended the conversation by telling Johnson he would contact him again when it came closer to the second weekend in August.

Despite other serious news that was going on at that time, Margetson said, “We thought it was best for everybody’s health and welfare that they talk to the mayor of Darwin in Minnesota.”

Johnson didn’t have to wait until August to hear from the Australian radio station, however. That privilege came once again last week, on Darwin Day.

Though the talk was short, Johnson shared the origin of the Minnesota town, which was actually named after a railroad promoter and stakeholder, not the evolutionist.

According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Darwin Township was organized April 5, 1858. The town was called Rice City, though it changed, in 1869, to the name of its railway village, which was platted in October of that year.

The name was chosen in honor of E. Darwin Litchfield of London, England, a principal stockholder and promoter of the St. Paul and Pacific (now the Great Northern) Railroad. This was also how the village and township of Litchfield were named.

Coincidentally, Litchfield happens to be a suburb of Darwin, Australia.

Though Johnson has never traveled to the Australian port city, he hopes to one day do so and talk live from inside the studio.

Click here to listen to the full broadcast..

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