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International flavors accentuate O.C. festivities

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-11-19

Okinawa City considers itself a cosmopolitan city, home to people from more than 30 countries.

The city, also known as Koza, welcomes them all this weekend for the Gate 2 Street Festival and Okinawa City International Carnival. The Saturday~Sunday atmosphere is expected to draw many thousands of visitors, and that’s fine with the city fathers. Without question, they believe Okinawa City is the most suitable place in the world for all internationally flavored, participation-oriented events.

The Okinawa International Carnival spreads itself across Koza Gate Street and Goya Intersection in Okinawa City, as well as Chuo Park Avenue and Koza Music Town.with activities including a tug-of-war, children’s taiko performances, traditional Ryukyu arts, a parade and live performances. Organizers predict this year’s carnival will be “the best yet” and promise events catering to every interest.

The Gate 2 Festival, with the rumbling—and somewhat loud—accent of more than 300 Harley Davidson motorcycles on the street, runs concurrently this weekend. The motorcycle parade takes place Saturday, blending the cultures of Okinawa, the United States and bikers of other nations. The local bands, street dance, drum performances and amateur wrestling blur the lines between the Gate 2 Festival and the Okinawa City International Carnival throughout the weekend.

As with previous Okinawa City International Carnivals, there will be plenty for sports enthusiasts, including soccer, basketball, Motorcross and a skateboard event. Opening Ceremonies are set for Saturday afternoon, ahead of drama and local dance exhibitions.

The big events of Saturday afternoon are the International Great Tug-of-War, a classic car parade and traditional Ryukyu arts and live performances. 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. Pre-tug of war performances will include music and karate demonstrations. The tug of war is open to all spectators, although young children should be kept clear of the rope.

Airport Gate Street goes crazy Sunday with the Okinawa Samba Parade. Organizers say some 10,000 marchers will feature people from not only Okinawa, but the U.S., South America and Asian countries, each displaying distinct culture, costumes, music and dance. Marchers winding their way along the two-hour parade route come from a variety of civic groups, dance troupes and sports organizations. Eisa dance teams and martial arts teams will stop along the parade route to perform mini-concerts.

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.

Organizers emphasize that streets and roadways will be subject to traffic restrictions during the weekend event. They also encourage people to par a distance away, because parking in the immediate Chuo Park and Gate 2 Street areas is very limited.

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