SAN FRANCISCO — Turning 40 is a milestone some would rather forget or ignore. In the case of San Francisco’s Nihonmachi Street Fair, turning 40 is cause for celebration.
And in a city that prides itself in street fairs, the Nihonmachi Street Fair seeks to celebrate more than its Japanese American roots – it invites and encourages the inclusion of diverse interests, both Asian and non-Asian-based.
The annual event will be held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3-4, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Japantown, Post Street between Fillmore and Laguna.
Back in 1973, the Nihonmachi Street Fair was hatched as an idea to provide leadership and mentorship opportunities for the youth of J-Town and to honor the Japanese American cultural heritage. As the city’s diversity and cultural awareness has grown, so has the fair’s focus.
Event organizers consider it the original “melting pot” of street fairs, with many aspects of Asian Pacific American life — and San Francisco’s cultural life — expressed through performance, tradition, art, music, food, and community outreach and service. The formula must work, since it’s estimated that over 30,000 guests participated in 2012.
As in years past, the Nihonmachi Street Fair will once again be a showcase for local and uniquely San Francisco talent and entertainment that spans cultural and generational genres — taiko, hula, Chinese lion dance, hip-hop, salsa, rock, jazz, and more — on two anchor stages.
The Nihonmachi Street Fair evolves to reflect the city it celebrates while staying true to its original idea — to be a platform to mentor Asian Pacific American youth and foster their leadership and communication skills through volunteerism and community service. The event is produced, staffed, and organized by youth volunteers, thus providing practical, hands-on experience in collaboration, entrepreneurship, and problem-solving.
As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Nihonmachi Street Fair receives a grant from the San Francisco Grants for the Arts Program but must rely on income generated through advertising revenue and sponsorship to underwrite fees, expenses, and logistical costs associated with producing this community celebration.
This year’s highlights include:
• Children’s World — An interactive area for families and their young children with Asian-inspired crafts and a focus on fun and games.
• Asian Artisans — A wide variety of artistic talent from all over the Bay Area. From traditional raku ceramics and bonsai to Hawaiian-inspired beef jerky, this area is an eclectic showcase of creativity.
• Doggie World – For the second time, a gathering place for the four-legged members of the community to join in on the fun. Local animal experts and adoption agencies will also be on hand to offer tips and information. Proceeds from the Doggie World Pageant and Parade will be donated to the San Francisco Friends of Animal Care & Control.
• Food Fest. — One of the core values of the Nihonmachi Street Fair is support for nonprofit community organizations, and food booths are a basic means of grassroots fundraising. Long-time participants such as Kimochi Inc., API Legal Outreach, Asian American Recovery Services, and Chinatown Youth Council have become the pillars of the Food Fest. By purchasing a burger, a plate of riblets or garlic fries, you’ll support critical programs and services.
For the past four years, the Nihonmachi Street Fair has welcomed small businesses to take part in the Food Fest. In 2011, two food trucks made their public debut: Adam’s Grub Truck (Asian fusion sandwiches) and Got Plate Lunch (Hawaiian lunch plates). By participating in the event, they were able to build a following.
• Entertainment – The Webster Street Stage and Clear Channel Peace Plaza Stage will showcase Asian and Pacific American performers from the Bay Area and beyond. It’s the best ticket in town to see both veteran and up-and-coming artists. The schedule (subject to change) is as follows:
Webster Street Stage
Saturday, Aug. 3
11 a.m.: Kevin Wong & The Bassment
12 p.m.: JAM
1 p.m.: SOL
2 p.m.: Johnny Hi-Fi
3 p.m.: Rendezvous
4 p.m.: Tracy Cruz
5 p.m.: Ascension
Sunday, Aug. 4
12 p.m.: Pulse
1:30 p.m.: L.P.
3 p.m.: A Cut Above
3:30 p.m.: Big City Revue
5 p.m.: 5.0
NSF Clear Channel Peace Plaza Stage
Saturday, Aug. 3
11 a.m.: West Coast Lion Dance
11:30 a.m.: Ben Ahn
12:30 p.m.: Motherland Nepal presents Nepalese folk dance
1:15 p.m.: Ke’Olu Makani San Francisco with J.D.
2 p.m.: Divas S.F.
3 p.m.: Kariktan
4 p.m.: Ukulenny
4:30 p.m.: Brown Suga Reggae Band
Sunday, Aug. 4
11 a.m.: San Mateo Miwa-Kai and Fairfield Mireisen-Kai
11:30 a.m.: Steven Espaniola
12:15 p.m. Kapalakiko Hawaiian Band
1 p.m.: Doggie Pageant and Parade
3:30 p.m.: Moana
5 p.m.: Mango Kingz
For more information, visit www.nihonmachistreetfair.org.