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Okinawa City Carnival spurs international flavors

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-11-25

Okinawa City, service personnel from nearby Kadena Air Base and other installations, plus residents from more than 30 countries, are all warmed up for a weekend International Carnival.

Okinawa City, also known as Koza, welcomes everyone this weekend for the Okinawa City International Carnival, a Saturday ~ Sunday festival expected to draw many thousands of visitors for events that include a giant tug-of-war, 10,000 people parading down the street in a people’s folk parade, bull fighting, a samba parade and a bunch more.

The carnival spreads itself across Airport Gate Street and Okinawa Kodomo-no-Kuni in Okinawa City. Organizers predict this year’s carnival will be “the best yet” and promise events catering to every interest.

As with previous Okinawa City International Carnivals, there will be plenty for sports enthusiasts, including soccer, basketball, motocross and a skateboard event. Opening Ceremonies are set for Saturday afternoon, ahead of drama and local dance exhibitions. Area Eisa groups will be performing across the afternoon Saturday after 1 p.m. opening ceremonies, and all eyes will be on the Samba Parade and Carnival beginning late in the day. An early afternoon parade features as many as 10,000 entrants in native garb from a couple dozen countries, dancing and showcasing international culture as it moves along Chuo Park Avenue to Route 330, then on to Gate 2 Street.

The Samba Queen Contest takes place at 4 p.m. on stage on Gate 2 Street, and the main parade kicks off at 5 p.m., followed by Samba Night on the street. The event promises to focus not only tourism and tourists, but on the Okinawa traditions, music cultures, sports and lifestyle interests that appeal to its homogeneous community.
Gate Street goes crazy Sunday with the International Tug-of-War starting at 6 p.m. It’s a scaled down rope pull that’s put Naha City in the Guinness Book of World Records, but Okinawa City locals say theirs is just as much fun. The tug of war is open to all spectators, although young children should be kept clear of the rope.

The lusty roar of Harley Davidson motorcycles will be part of the Okinawa International Carnival, which a year ago linked the Gate 2 Street Festival with the motorcycle events and the two became fast friends and allies to promote the community. The festivities begin at noon Saturday with events at Koza Music Town, Gate 2 Street and Park Avenue. Sunday’s parade features the Harley Davidson motorcycles, more than 300 in all, starting at 1 p.m. as everyone heads for the show on Gate 2 Street.

There will be dozens of food vendors and souvenir stands available to spectators, each offering a specialty unique to Okinawa, America or another country. Games and activities for children will be plentiful as well, and adults can indulge in pro wrestling or arm wrestling, or just kick back and listen to the bands.

Koza Gate 2 Street will be closed Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Park Avenue will be closed from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, while Route 330 will have two of its four lanes restricted both Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Organizers also encourage people to park a distance away, because parking in the immediate Chuo Park and Gate 2 Street areas is very limited.

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