SAINT PAUL, Minn. — For the first time in history, the prime minister from Latvia is here in Minnesota.
Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins is in the Twin Cities for the Latvian Song and Dance Festival that starts Wednesday and goes through July 4.
The event is held every five years and it’s the first time the event is being held in Minnesota.
"Over the coming days, the Latvian community in the United States is celebrating a fantastic event: the song and dance festival,” Karins says.
Organizers estimate nearly 8,000 Latvians from across the United States and around the world will visit Minnesota for the festival.
The festival has been held 15 times in North America, but the original festival in Latvia dates back to 1873.
Organizers say the 150th anniversary of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival will be held in Latvia in 2023.
But besides song and dance, the prime minister's visit to Minnesota is also about strengthening ties with the U.S., as Ukraine, one of Latvia's neighbors, is at war with Russia.
"We have so far donated the equivalent of one-third of our annual defense budget for Ukraine and we will continue,” Karins says.
Members of Minnesota's Ukrainian community presented gifts to the prime minister, thanking him for the support.
Karins also met with Governor Tim Walz Wednesday morning to discuss how they can create better business relationships between Latvia and Minnesota.
"It's important that as the world becomes, in some ways, more dangerous, that we like-minded peoples band ever closer together,” Karins said.
Karins says Putin's war in Ukraine has backfired in many ways as it has brought democratic nations closer than ever before.
He says the festival this week is a great reminder of how different cultures can come together to celebrate and honor their heritage in peace.
To learn more about the Latvian Song and Dance Festival click here.
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