File photo from the 2019 OAA picnic held in Rosemead. Children participate in a game called tama-ire. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

On Sunday, July 25, 1 to 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Gardena will present a “virtual” version of their annual Okinawa Picnic.

The two-hour program will be free of charge and available to watch anywhere: http://youtube.com/oaacentennial

The festivities will include the OAA’s annual high school scholarship awards ceremony, performances from the community, raffle drawings, an “Okinawan Bon Dance at Home” segment for viewers to dance along to, and more.

Although the live broadcast will not be an actual “picnic,” the name was kept because of its legacy dating back to the 1930s. These gatherings became important for Okinawan immigrants in Southern California, providing a place for them to build fellowship and to joyously partake in their shared cultural heritage. Over the years, organizers added scholarship awards for graduating high school seniors to recognize the academic and community achievements of young Okinawans in the organization.

The event has since become a multigenerational summertime gathering centered around great company and the rich cultural heritage that connects the community.

The Okinawa Picnic is usually hosted at Whittier Narrows Recreation Park in South El Monte (and years ago at Elysian Park next to Dodgers Stadium). However, due to state and county guidelines frequently changing, the OAA Picnic Planning Committee and Board of Directors decided early on to be extra cautious and go virtual instead.

Since the start of the pandemic, the OAA has been hosting a number of virtual events and asks their members to safely assist parents, grandparents, or relatives who might need tech assistance. Other online-based activities have included a monthly social gathering on the Zoom video conference app/software, their annual fundraiser, and a virtual New Year’s celebration. The organization also organized two socially distanced drive-thru events for senior members and an online/in-person hybrid for their board members/chairpersons retreat.

The OAA’s Virtual Picnic can be accessed from any current Internet browser (no special software or applications required). Visit http://oaamensore.org to watch live on July 25.A recording will be available until 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time that night and re-broadcasts will be scheduled.

OAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture. Formed by first-generation (Issei) Okinawan immigrants, the OAA has grown into a multi-generational organization that hosts numerous events throughout the year including cultural lectures, performances, social gatherings, and senior-focused activities. 2019 marked the organization’s 110th anniversary as well as the 20th anniversary of the OAA Center in Gardena. Join their email list to receive updates about upcoming activities: http://tinyurl.com/oaaemail

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