July 31 Daylong Cultural Festival featuring Oregon Asian Celebration and Obon Festival

July 19, 2021

CONTACT: David Tam, Event Director, davidyuentam@gmail.com, (541) 554-9350;
Aimee Yogi, Obon Festival Director, ayogi@uoregon.edu, (541) 556-5558

Oregon Asian Celebration and
Obon & Taiko Festival Join for a “Strength in Unity Festival”
Saturday, July 31st at Alton Baker Park 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Eugene, OR – The Oregon Asian Celebration joins the Obon & Taiko Festival for a daylong celebration of Asian cultural heritage on Saturday, July 31 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at Alton Park. Admission is free.

After two postponements of the Asian Celebration due to the county’s pandemic status, the organizers stayed true to their event theme “Year of the Ox – Strength in Unity” and announced in mid-May it would join with another Asian cultural event, the Obon & Taiko Festival. The combined festivals feature daylong entertainment, cultural dances, demonstrations, Asian foods, youth activities, a marketplace, and more.

Both are long-standing annual festivals in Eugene. The Asian Celebration enters its 36th consecutive year and the Obon & Taiko Festival enters its 32nd consecutive year.

“Partnering with the Obon Festival will be like experiencing a festival within a festival,” said Asian Celebration Director David Tam. “Nothing about the Obon & Taiko Festival will be altered. It will continue to feature traditional and contemporary Japanese dances, crafts, and youth activities. “

The Asian Celebration will bring its diversity of Asian cultural dances, music, demonstrations, Asian foods, children’s activities, and a marketplace. The fine arts and heritage exhibits will be absent at the summer festival as both were featured in a month-long City of Eugene downtown windowfront exhibition program in May in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“With Covid limiting personal interactions and isolating people over the past year, our theme speaks to the power of coming together to rebuild our relationships with each other and our community,” Tam said.

According to Aimee Yogi, an event organizer of the Obon festival, “We are excited to share the meaning of Obon with new and former Obon festival attendees. Obon festivals are held annually throughout Japan, the United States, and other countries to commemorate and honor one’s ancestors. We teach traditional and contemporary circle dances that are easy to learn and we invite everyone to participate,” Yogi said. “For anyone who has lost a relative or loved one, the Obon festival is a time to honor and remember them.” Eugene’s Obon festival also includes taiko drumming performances, Asian folk crafts, and more.

This year’s festival will honor two founding members of the Obon Festival and Eugene Taiko – Ken Nagao and Kathy Cunningham, who passed away in 2020, Yogi said. Ken Nagao was also a founder and chair for the first 20 years of the Oregon Asian Celebration.

To celebrate this “strength in unity” gathering, the festival also features a Wishing Tree, where people are invited to write hopes, wishes, and dreams on strips of paper to tie onto the tree branches. The tree will be at the Japanese American Association booth where volunteers will provide materials for tying wishes to the tree. Wishing trees are common in many festivals in Japan, but practiced in various forms around the world. The wishing tree is a project of 1000 Hopes developed by local artist Sara Miura Zolbrod, who started the first wishing project in May at the Eugene Public Library in honor of Asian American & Pacific Islander Month.

This year’s cultural performances include Chinese Zither Guzheng music, Javanese Gamelan Sari Pandhawa, Ahiru Daiko taiko drumming, traditional and contemporary Koto music, Japanese traditional and contemporary dances, Eugene Taiko, Bhangra Bollywood dances, Egyptian folk dances, and demonstrations of various martial arts. The entertainment concludes with 11-year-old DJ composer Zepher.

Event organizers encourage festival attendees wear masks in crowded areas. Families attending with their children need to be aware that masks are required of all youth ages 11 and under planning to participate in the various games and activities as a health and safety precaution. Activities include carnival games and hands-on craft activities. Yujin Gakuen PTO is hosting the carnival games, and event partners Eugene Public Library and Adventure Children’s Museum will also be on-site with games, crafts, and book giveaways. Additional activities include origami, a popular Japanese craft of folding paper that transforms into shapes of animals and other objects, and a haiku poetry exhibit by Lane County students. The youth games and activities are will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Children can also pick up an event treasure map at the Asian Council booth to get their map stamped by participating vendors. Once all locations are marked on their map, they can turn in the map at the Asian Council booth and get a small prize. Youth can also enter their names into a drawing to win gift cards to local businesses in the community. Treasure maps will be available on-site or can be downloaded from the Asiancelebration.org website.

A good selection and diversity of Asian foods from sushi, noodle bowls, skewers, Indian fare, and more will be on-site provided by Asian community food trucks.

Festival attendees can peruse the marketplace for artwork, textiles, trinkets, giveaways, and information about organizations and services.

Beginning at 5:00 p.m. the festival transitions into the Obon & Taiko Festival. The Obon is an opportunity for festival attendees of all ages to learn and then participate in dancing traditional dances in large concentric circles. Also during this time, Eugene Taiko will perform drumming performances. The festival concludes with additional stage entertainment until closing at 10:00 p.m.

Event organizers encourage festival attendees to bring a lawn chair, sun umbrella, picnic blanket, and water bottle to relax and enjoy a variety of Asian dishes and the ongoing entertainment until closing.

This year’s free event is produced by the Asian American Council of Oregon, Japanese American Association of Lane County, and made possible with support from Northwest Community Credit Union, City of Eugene, University of Oregon, Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, KVAL-TV, and KLCC.

Information about this year’s festival program schedule is available at www.AsianCelebration.org.