Monday, November 14, 2011

White Beach Festival Brings Communities Together

Weekends in Okinawa are great~!  Read about the good times you never had in the best United States Navy books!

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey H. Kyhl, Amphibious Squadron 11 Public Affairs

WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa (NNS) -- White Beach Naval Facility hosted a two-day festival for more than 10,000 people to promote friendship and foster mutual appreciation and understanding between the Okinawa community and U.S. service members, Nov. 12-13.

Visitors interacted with Sailors, enjoyed cultural performances and explored the facility.

"This festival is a way to open the base up to the people of Okinawa," said Capt. Rich Weathers, commander, Fleet Activities Okinawa. "It lets them see what we do here and that we are just as big of a part of the community as anything else they see outside the gates."

Festivities began at 11 a.m. and lasted until 10 p.m. both days.

"We were expecting rain throughout the weekend but everything really turned out well for the festival," said Jeff Short, White Beach Naval Facility's complex manager. "We had a lot of static displays and games to keep the kids entertained, offered different types of great food and put on a few very successful musical performances."

The U.S. 7th Fleet and III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) bands each performed twice during the festival, playing both traditional and contemporary music.

"It was pleasure to come out and play for such an enthusiastic crowd," said Lance Cpl. Jeshua Sosa, a percussionist in the III MEF Band.

For a few hours each day forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH 182) were open to the public for guided tours. Each ship had more than 1,000 visitors.

"It's hard to believe how big these ships are," said Lisa Agowa, a tour participant on Germantown. "The tour helped me understand a little of what Sailors go through during all those days at sea."

Dragon boat racing has been a popular event in parts of Asia for thousands of years and has recently gained support all over the world. The White Beach Festival gave 14 11-person teams the chance to prove that they were the best in Okinawa.

"I think the dragon boat races were the biggest draw this year," said Weathers. "We haven't included dragon boat races in the White Beach Festival in 21 years and everyone was excited to have them back. This type of racing is very important to the people of Okinawa so this is a great way of encouraging them to come visit this part of their community."

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