The Nisei Week Foundation held a press conference June 26 at Dodger Stadium to announce Tommy Lasorda as its 71st Parade Marshal.
Lasorda, best known as the former Dodgers manager, said he accepted because of his ties to Japan and the Japanese American community.
“Being selected means a lot to me, including my relationships with the Japanese people here and in Japan,” Lasorda said.
Japanese American civil rights activist Aiko Yoshinaga-Herzig will be the parade’s Grand Marshal.
The 2011 Nisei Week Japanese Festival, the longest running ethnic festival of its kind, will be held Aug. 12-21 throughout Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district. Enjoyed by thousands every summer, Nisei Week showcases free Japanese cultural events, activities and exhibits, including music and entertainment, food and fun games for all age groups.
“‘Honoring our community heroes’ locally and globally is the unified theme that epitomizes this year’s cultural festival,” said Rev. Mark Nakagawa, Nisei Week Foundation president.
“Nisei Week is proud of its community roots; all of our distinguished honorees are heroes because of the extraordinary accomplishments they have achieved in a wide variety of pursuits – professional sports, the arts, civil rights, international business and religion,” he said. “We are truly excited to have both leaders like Tommy Lasorda, former L.A. Dodgers manager and Aiko Yoshinaga-Herzig, Japanese American internment researcher and author as festival parade and grand marshals, respectively. Their leadership and the accomplishments of all the festival honorees continue to be impactful on local, national and global levels.”
The third annual Lighting of the Tanabata Festival will kick off this year’s festivities on Friday, Aug. 12, at Central Avenue and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Geffen) between Temple and First Streets. More than 200 paper kazari (giant, colorful Japanese paper lanterns) hand-constructed by the community will be on display. Specially designed kazari from Sendai, Japan, where the Tanabata Festival originates, will also be available for viewing.
Community organizations and friends are also encouraged to make their own tanabata to be displayed during this year’s festival.
Nisei Week’s first weekend of activities, Aug. 13 and 14, will include free, fun daytime events at the Nisei Week Plaza Faire held on the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center Plaza. Be sure to also see the many Japanese cultural exhibits and martial arts demonstrations (sumo, aikido, and shinkendo).
This year, the faire will have food booths, merchandise vendors and performances.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, the 2011 Nisei Week Queen will be crowned at the annual Coronation Ball and Golden Circle Dinner. Differing from years past, the dinner will be held at the Pasadena Hilton, followed by the show and coronation at the Ambassador Auditorium, also in Pasadena.
Grand Marshal Herzig and Parade Marshal Lasorda will lead the procession of Grand Parade participants as they are routed through the streets of Little Tokyo on Sunday, Aug. 14, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The parade will feature nebuta, smaller floats made of paper and lights that originated from Aomori, Japan. This is the second year that the nebuta are being designed, created and paraded by local community organizations, including the parents and students from the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The second weekend (Aug. 20-21) continues with more free exhibits and cultural events. Come out and see if champion eater Joey Chestnut (attendance not yet confirmed) can hold his three-time reigning Day-Lee Foods Gyoza Eating Championship title at the Gyoza Eating Contest on Competition Day, Aug. 20 at the JACCC. Competition Day also includes the Rubik’s Cube contest.
On Sunday, Aug. 21, come hear the thunderous sounds of some of LA’s best taiko groups performing during this year’s Nisei Week Closing Ceremony. Like in years past, the ondo street dancing will officially close the festivities and beginning at 4 p.m. on Little Tokyo’s First Street. The public is encouraged to join in this Japanese street dancing ritual.
This year, the official Nisei Week choreographer is Madame Bando Mitsuhiro of Bando Mitsuhiro Kai. She will lead free ondo dance practice each Monday and Thursday starting July 17 until the festival starts, at the JACCC Plaza.
Nisei Week activities will be held in various locations throughout Little Tokyo, including the JACCC, located at 244 S. San Pedro St.
American Airlines is the official airline sponsor of the Nisei Week Japanese Festival. Both weekends feature live entertainment, food and fun for the entire family. Bring everyone out to enjoy and share in the experience of L.A.’s premier Japanese American cultural event of the year.
For further information, visit the Nisei Week website at www.NiseiWeek.org or call the Nisei Week office at (213) 687-7183.