SOUTH EL MONTE — The Okinawa Association of America’s annual picnic has been a tradition for local Okinawans and Okinawans-at-heart since its first incarnation in the 1930s. The picnic has always been a highly anticipated event for families enjoying summer afternoons of homemade treats, family games, and Okinawan cultural performances. It has also become the venue for the OAA to award its annual scholarships to graduating high school students.

This year will mark the seventh year of Okinawa-style Bon dancing at the OAA Picnic. Regardless of age or experience, everybody is invited to participate. The dancing is accompanied by dancing drummers (eisa) and sanshin (Okinawan shamisen) musicians. The origin of Bon dancing is a Buddhist ritual to soothe the souls of ancestors during the summer Obon festivals.

Bon dance practice will take place on Monday, July 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Higashi Building of the OAA Center, 16500 S. Western Ave., Gardena. Practices are open to the public. There are also practice videos posted online at

The OAA Picnic will be held on Sunday, July 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Park, Area E-1, 750 Santa Anita Ave., South El Monte. Teriyaki bento orders ($7 each) and pre-sale raffle tickets ($1 each) are now available for purchase until June 28. Top raffle prizes are an iPad Mini donated by Kamiya Insurance Agency, and a flatscreen HD TV donated by the OAA Seisonenbu Activities Committee. Parking is $6.

Contact the OAA office at (310) 532-1929 or for more information.

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