Lake Park will add 20 Sargent cherry trees to its expansive grounds as symbols of the city’s growing friendship with sister city Misato, Japan.

The city received the trees to commemorate the centennial of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the U.S. in 1912, and over 100 people attended a ceremony at Lake Park Sunday to plant the first saplings.

36 cities across the country were selected to receive trees, and Winona is one of them due to Misato’s recommendation to the Consulate General of Japan. Two other Minnesota cities, Bloomington and St. Paul, also received trees and held ceremonies celebrating the centennial this weekend.

“The world should take note of the relationship between Misato and Winona,” said Mayor Jerry Miller at the ceremony. “Physically, we are miles apart, but as this relationship grows and flourishes, we become one,” he added later.

The sister city relationship between Misato and Winona is more than a symbol of healthy foreign relations. Throughout their 10-year friendship, the two cities have supported each other in good times and bad. When the Winona area flooded in 2007, Misato sent a $2,500 donation, and when an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan in 2011, locals raised nearly $10,000 for relief.

“They’re (the trees) a symbol of friendship across the waters, but they’re also a symbol of hope,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar D-Minn., who spoke at Sunday’s event.

Each year, students from Winona Senior High School visit Misato, and vice versa. Amelia Price of Winona took the trip as a sophomore a few years back, and volunteered at Sunday’s ceremony, handing out programs and answering questions. Price said schools operate a little differently in Japan than in the U.S., because students wear uniforms and spend the entire day in one classroom.

“It’s just a cultural exchange, you know?” Price said.

Representatives from Misato and Winona attended the event, along with politicians, students, Lions club members, and area residents. The group from Misato arrived Friday and will spend about a week visiting various area attractions.

“I am very glad we are finally able to send the Sakura to Winona as a gift of the Japanese government,” said Misato Mayor Koetsu Sasaki. “We hope that this opportunity will be the symbol of our new friendship.”

Trees will also be planted at Winona Middle School, Winona Senior High School, and Windom Park.