Asian American Neighborhood Festival

Asian American Neighborhood Festival in Santa Barbara (Photo by Robert Bernstein)

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation has been restoring the Presidio for many years. A piece of Spanish history in Santa Barbara. But on some of this same land were Asian American neighborhoods of Chinese and Japanese Americans, among others. To honor this history, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation has been holding an annual Asian American Neighborhood Festival with a wide range of cultural activities.

They claim this is the 14th annual Festival. But my friend Valerie Yoshimura claims she started it in 1991 and that this is just the latest revival! In any case, the most recent celebration was on Sunday, October 15!

Here are my photos and here are my videos.

The event ran from 11AM-3PM and there is no way to show you everything here. So, please check out the rest of my photos and videos!

First up was Gamelan Sinar Surya. A Santa Barbara based music ensemble that has been performing Indonesian Gamelan music since 2002. Just before COVID they performed for the Friends of the Goleta Library and I wrote this article about for edhat here.

This video starts with a fun surprise!

Of course there was a Lion Dance! Performed by the Camarillo Kung Fu and Lion Dance Association. I am in awe of the people who form the rear end of the lions. They have to stay bent over and do impressive gymnastics and they have to stay hidden the whole time.

In addition to traditional Asian culture, it was fun to see a variety of modern Asian culture. Mostly from UCSB groups. This one was a break dance exhibition by UCSBreakin’ You See Us Breaking (get it?) doing some fancy moves.

They were followed by the UCSB SS805 K-Pop group.

Ojai O’Daiko keeps alive the tradition of Taiko drumming. The tradition is thought to go back to the 6th century in Japan, perhaps brought from China and Korea. Here is the second of my two videos of them. Notice the energetic dancing!

Hula Anyone performs at many events in the region. Angelita Eller is the director and choreographer. The group welcomes anyone who wants to learn the art of hula. Here is a merge of several videos I made of their performances.

RBG (Ready Beat Go) was another UCSB K-Pop group that performed with precision choreography.

Togen Daiko of Oxnard performed a second set of Taiko drumming.

After so much sitting, the organizers got the crowd up and involved in a Japanese folk dance. The movements represented hard work of coal miners. Digging. Throwing the coal over the shoulder. Pushing the cart. Repeat.

Jimil Anne Linton is a Filipina American and a military veteran. She doesn’t just perform music, she creates and performs original pieces. Here she played keyboard and sang one of her creations.

It was a hot day out there, so it was good there were refreshments. Nimita’s Cuisine had a tent serving up delicious Indian food. That was my pick and here I was being served!

There was also a food truck on Canon Perdido. Here I posed in front of it in an appropriate shirt I had recently gotten at an Isla Vista street fair.

Some of the key organizers posed with News Channel reporter Mina Wahab (L in photo). Organizers left to right: Deborah Cristobal, Terease Chin, Helen Wong and on far right is Karena Jew. Helen and Karena also helped organize an Asian American film series.

They also wanted to pose with the event poster with more of the key people!

Gavin Takase Sanchez is the creative director of Ojai O’Daiko and he posed with his daughter.

Below is a video of Gavin explaining more about Ojai O’Daiko (which means “Ojai Big Drum). My friend Kym Cochran referred me to Ojai O’Daiko spokesperson Lydia Turner for more information. Lydia told me that they are applying for grants to build more drums so they can launch new classes for kids and seniors. They currently teach adult classes through the Ojai Recreation Department and want to expand to more age groups and to other areas in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. This is especially important as arts funding in public schools is disappearing.


Written by sbrobert

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