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Hagaromo Festival overshadowed by Americans being turned away

Date Posted: 2004-08-20

The Hagoromo Festival, Ginowan’s largest annual festival, found itself toned down this year as Americans were asked to stay away.

The festival last weekend started a day after an American helicopter crashed into a Ginowan neighborhood, causing damage but no injuries. Still, community officials concerned about clashes between angry citizens and the foreigners decided they had to make a move.

Mayor Youichi Iha uninvited American military dignitaries to the ceremonies and festival. He told the military generals, and Futenma base commander Colonel Richard Lueking they were not welcome, and simply stay away.

The Ginowan directive was aimed at all Americans stationed in Okinawa with the military, with the city saying “please try not to come. Just bear with us.” They were concerned citizens angry over the helicopter incident would “get angry and some bad things happen. You never know what these citiens are doing at the festival. We want to save the military people and keep them safe.”

The VIP’s stayed away, but many Americans did join the festivities held near the Convention Center. They’d never gotten the word they weren’t welcome, and they had good times. There were no incidents reported between Americans and local festival attendees.

That made sponsors happy, because the whole concept of the Hagaromo Festival is exchanging friendship vows, and young people having fun together.

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