Spotlight Columns

Local flavor at regional festivals goes well beyond food

By August 19, 2011

The more time you spend in El Dorado Hills and the surrounding region the more you realize: this place is extraordinary.

Extra, as in “more than.”

Remarkable, as in “worthy of commentary.”

This place we call “home” is one of the most unique places in the country. It is larger than just the sum of its parts. Let me explain why.

A few weeks ago, I attended one of the largest community festivals in the region — the 65th annual Japanese Food and Cultural Bazaar in Sacramento.

This event originated in 1946, when the Sacramento area’s Japanese population began to return after forced relocation to internment camps during World War II. American citizens of Japanese heritage were sent to camps in Idaho, Arizona and elsewhere.

Many were never compensated for the businesses, farms and homes they left behind that were confiscated by the government and given to others.

In an effort to put all this behind them, the members of the Sacramento Buddhist Church decided to hold a bazaar to: a) re-establish themselves as part of the Sacramento community and b) to re-unite friends and families, some of whom had been separated for years.

It was an unmitigated success, and the event grew each year.

And as the subsequent generations grew up, they moved to the suburbs of East Sacramento, Carmichael, Folsom and, yes, El Dorado Hills. But this single event brings them back, year after year … and they bring their friends and the community at large with them.

This year, the church prepared 10,000 pounds of chicken seasoned and barbequed for chicken teriyaki, approximately 2 tons of rice, some 2,000 pounds of beef prepared for teriyaki meat sticks and sandwiches, 500 pounds of noodles and countless fruits and vegetables for the 40,000 people who attended the event.

You didn’t have to be Japanese (or even Buddhist) to enjoy this fantastic event. Everyone was welcome. It was a homecoming par excellence.

At the festival I actually saw friends I hadn’t seen in a year or more … and many were from Folsom and El Dorado Hills. A few were even members of the Buddhist community.

Festivals like these are great opportunities to learn about other cultures and our neighbors. In addition to the Taiko drum performances and Japanese folk dancing, there were opportunities to learn some calligraphy, check out how to grow a bonsai and learn a little bit about Buddhist philosophy.

For example, I learned that Buddhist Dharma School is a lot like Christian Sunday School. The major aim of the Dharma School program is to give students the opportunity to develop self-awareness and to integrate basic Buddhist concepts into their lives. It was fascinating learning about viewing the world through “Dharma Eyes” unclouded by the “Three Poisons of Greed, Anger and Ignorance.”

I personally found many concepts that those of other faiths could agree with.

Our region is renowned for its festivals and “festas.” There are Portuguese festas, Italian festas and the list goes on and on.

These events are well worth attending, if for no other reason than they build goodwill and better friendships between neighbors in our community.

So keep your eyes open for the next opportunity that may come your way … you won’t regret it. And the food will be fantastic.

What community celebrations do you enjoy each year? Tell Susan. Submit your arts or entertainment event for consideration in Susan’s column by e-mailing her at [email protected].

Susan Laird


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