News: Service members enjoy Park Ave festivities
OKINAWA, Japan - In the 1950s, Park Avenue was once one of the most crowded and popular areas for service members stationed on Okinawa. Formerly known as B.C. Street, or Business Center Street, it was a bustling hub for commerce. Now, more than 60 years later, area businesses are struggling. But that may be changing.
The Park Avenue business owners’ association in Okinawa City held the Kanaderu Park festival to help revitalize the street formerly popular to U.S. service members June 30.
“Kanaderu means ‘playing music,’” said Takeshi Shimabukuro, an event coordinator with the Park Avenue event promotion office. “We named this event Kanaderu because of the multiple music shops on this street.”
Every three months, an event is held to bring business back to Park Avenue. Kanderu Park festival was scheduled to give service members an opportunity to celebrate Independence Day, according to Shimabukuro.
The festival was organized into a series of events and competitions for Okinawans and service members to either watch or participate.
“There are several bands and dance teams performing to entertain those here,” said Shimabukuro. “We also had a hot dog-eating competition open to the first ten people to sign up.”
One event during the festival encouraged friendly competition among the contestants.
“We had a tug-of-war competition between the services represented,” said 1st Lt. Daniel E. English, camp operations officer for Camp Courtney. “There were two teams from the Air Force, one team from the Navy and one team from the Marines. I am happy to say the Marines were able to walk away with the prize for winning.”
Park Avenue used to be popular among service members and status of forces agreement personnel several decades ago, and those at the festival would like to see this once again, according to English.
“This festival is a lot of fun,” said Lance Cpl. Richard A. Harlow, data systems technician with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Being able to see a part of town I have not heard of before and take part in the activities they have here is better than staying on base.”
If there is an increase in the popularity of Park Avenue, other festivities will be held, according to Shimabukuro.
“We hope to see more business here from our American friends, and if business grows maybe we can host festivals for other holidays as well,” said Shimabukuro.
Date Posted:07.05.2012 21:23
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