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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Tiny US town's big Welsh heritage
Carmarthen and Malad
Mormon settlers from Wales helped found Malad in the mid 19th century
A quick glance through the town's phone book shows traditional Welsh surnames such as Evans, Jones, Williams, Parry and Thomas in abundance.

It is not surprising that Malad, in the US state of Idaho, lays claim to having more people of Welsh descent per capita than anywhere outside of Wales.

Renewed interest in ancestry led the town to stage its first Welsh festival since World War One in early July.

Links with Carmarthen are also being made with a view to twinning the towns.

The aim is to develop the Malad Welsh Festival, which revived a once annual event, into a major cultural celebration in the American mid-west, possibly even an eisteddfod.

Lions clubs from both towns are behind the links, which it is hoped will one day lead to official twinning.

Founded in 1865, Malad was a popular destination for Mormon emigrants from Wales seeking a new life for themselves on the other side of the Atlantic.

The early pioneers would have moved west in wagon trains and handcart companies to the Malad Valley, which locals say would have been similar in look and climate to Wales.

American and Welsh flags
Malad was founded in 1865, the Roman fort at Carmarthen dates back to AD75
Malad has a population of about 2,200 and Carmarthen 20,000
Agriculture plays an important role in both towns
Arthurian legend has it Merlin was born in a cave outside Carmarthen
Legend has it gold and silver bars robbed from a stage coach are buried in the mountains near Malad

President of the Carmarthen club, Roger Love, said ties were formed earlier this year when American Joe Thomas travelled to Wales on business and met some of the members.

He said it was fascinating that there were so many people of Welsh descent all in one small community.

"He wanted to talk to us not just as a Lions club but as a country," he said.

"The hope is that we will now twin - hopefully as a town but if not as Lions clubs.

"The idea is to liaise back and fore - even possibly send out representatives to next year's festival."

Jean Thomas, a member of the Malad Valley Welsh Society which organised the event, said it was a link they were keen to build on.

She said this year's two-day festival included Welsh language workshops, music, dance and talent competitions along with crafts, food and family history displays.

"We estimated that over 800 people from all over southern Idaho and northern Utah attended," she said.

"This year's success confirms out thoughts that there is a deep interest in Wales and all things Welsh, especially among us who claim a Welsh heritage."

Malad was founded in 1865 and today has a population of just over 2,000.

Like Carmarthen, agriculture is important to the local economy.

"The valley is surrounded by mountains, which may have reminded the early Welsh settlers of their native land," added Mrs Thomas.

"I know a lot of people in Malad are anxious to visit Wales.

"Eventually we want to award tickets to Wales as a top prize for our eisteddfod."

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