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Fireworks, music abundant this weekend

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2006-07-14

Skies over northern Okinawa will be exploding in barrages of vivid colors this weekend as a pair of festivals attract tens of thousands.

The largest fireworks extravaganza on the island is Saturday night at Okinawa Expo Memorial Parks. Emerald Beach in Motobu Town is the setting for the free Fireworks Festival, which kicks off with an Eisa Parade at 12:30pm. Local bands perform across a five-hour period, starting at 3pm.

The fireworks begin launching at 8pm, lasting an hour. Organizers say this yearıs show features 10,000 pyrotechnics, up from 7,500 last year. A 20-minute break during the fireworks program will allow technicians to reload their tubes.

Festival officials encourage visitors to be patient, because the large crowds will tax the roads system and make exit travel slow. Thereıs plenty of parking at the Emerald Beach site, but itıs all expected to be full by mid-afternoon. The Ocean Expo Park closes at 10pm, and no overnight stays or parking are allowed. Organizers note, however, there are plenty of nearby beaches that allow overnight parking.

The Chatan Seaport Carnival is sharing the weekend spotlight, and the extremely popular event at Sunset Beach is expected to attract countless thousands as well. The Chatan Seaport Festival runs both Saturday and Sunday, with fireworks displays both nights at 9pm. Admission is free.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Chatan Seaport Carnival will start Saturday at 2pm with an Indies music contest, followed by the Marine Corps III Marine Expeditionary Force band concert at 6pm. Sunday there will be childrenıs haarii at 10am, a raft race at noon, and an afternoon life saving race.

Officials say Americans are welcome to enter the life saving race, which involves running with a board on a flagged beach course, and paddling too.

Registration will be on the beach.

With Typhoon Bilis looming in the region, organizers say a postponement may be necessary to July 29-30. The Typhoon is currently on a track taking it far west of Okinawa, but forecasters say it is showing signs of turning more toward the north, a direction that could bring more rain to the island.

For those not wanting to mix and mingle with super large crowds expected at both Expo Park and Sunset Beach, there are festival alternatives a week from now. The July 22-23 weekend has a number of smaller festivals, including the Tedako Festival at 1pm at Urasoe Atheltic Park, the Motobu Festival & Dragon Boat Races starting at 11am at Motobu Pork Park, and the Onna Festival at the Onna Village Community Center at 1pm, the Seinen Hometown Eisa Festival beginning at 2pm at the Chatan Sports Center.

Mark your calendar for Sunday, July 23rd, when the Naha Eisa Week Opening Ceremonies take place at Palette Kumoji Plaza in downtown Naha. Also on July 23rd only, the Kanna Dam Festival plays Ginoza Village Kanna Dam Park beginning at 11am. All are free.

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