Bay Area Life

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58th Annual North Beach Festival

North Beach Festival 2012

The 58th Annual North Beach Festival took to the streets of historic North Beach, also known as “Little Italy”, this past weekend with Saturday being the extreme scorcher of the two day festival. The festival occupied the busiest streets of the district with Columbus Street, this year, completely closed off to through traffic from Broadway to Green Streets with the overflow of festival-goers inhabiting Washington Square to relax and enjoy the company of friends and the weather.

The festival enjoyed its greatest weather on Saturday with many people taking to the streets in shorts, skirts, dresses, and of course sunglasses. People enjoyed the festival while grabbing drinks at the many beer gardens scattered throughout the festival. The largest beer and wine garden was at the Green Street Stage where guests inhabited the normally parking lot by day location. Here guests mingled with each other while enjoying a beverage or two with live performances by upbeat bands. The Filbert Street Stage was a smaller scaled stage with a different calmer atmosphere with bands that played soothing jazz.

Similar to other street festivals in San Francisco, the streets were filled with arts and crafts booths, sponsor booths, food and drink booths, and live music. However, what sets this festival apart from the others in San Francisco is the street chalk artwork that takes place at Grant Ave. and Vallejo Street. This year five artists constructed chalk art with many onlookers watching the artwork being created on Saturday to the final finishing touches by the festival’s end on Sunday. Organizers of the festival also allowed the public to take part in chalk art on the sidewalk for a small nominal fee.

Also observed during the festival is the annual “Blessing of the Animals” held by the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi. Hundreds of people and their animals occupied the building over the course of two days with Fr. Gregory Coiro presiding over the animal blessings.

Having been to this festival several times, a trip to the North Beach would not be complete without having tried pizza from the area. I had some this year and it was good. I won’t tell you where, so you’ll have to discover it on your own. If you want some delicious pizza, come out to this district and try the different styles that this area has to offer. Pizza comes in all sorts, thin crust, cracker crust, thick crust, and also Sicilian styled pizza. I haven’t come across a deep dish pizza in the North Beach, but then again it’s not a traditional type of pizza originating from Italy. Deep dish is synonymous with Chicago and though there are some deep dish pizza joints in San Francisco, I think this district has yet to see one. There are rumors though that one will be coming soon.

Until next time, Ciao.

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North Beach Festival 2012 (1)

Festival booths line Columbus Street.

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The crowded Grant Avenue facing south.

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Looking north on Grant Avenue at the North Beach Festival.

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A crowded Washington Square.

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Quest brings his slacklining to the park and allows others to try the sport.

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The jam packed Green Street Stage on Saturday afternoon.

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Columbus Street facing the Transamerica Pyramid.

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One of many Italian flag painted poles in the North Beach.

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Customers compare their choice colored t-shirts.

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Chalk artists design artwork on the streets of North Beach.

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Amos Goldbaum captures the old Embarcadero Freeway on a t-shirt. Does anybody remember this freeway pre-1989 earthquake?

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Can you believe this is her real hair?

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North Beach Festival is enjoyed by all. He particularly enjoys the No Stopping signs on Columbus Avenue.

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Two lovely ladies enjoy their puppets.

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A trip to North Beach is not complete without taking home a pizza.

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Two people enjoy a game of chess outside of a cafe at the North Beach Festival.

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Father Gregory Coiro blesses animals inside the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi.

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SF Giants are represented at the North Beach Festival

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Two ladies enjoy gummy worms while selling hats at the North Beach Festival.

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Italian inspired clothing and tattoos.

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Jammin' on the electric guitar.

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Gettin' down with the music.

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Playin' jazz with Carol Doda in the background before she sings.

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The North Beach Festival is a family affair.

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The completed chalk artworks on Vallejo Street.

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2012 Union Street Festival

Union Street Festival 2012

The Union Street Festival has come and gone just like the wind. Speaking of the wind, vendors spoke of tales of a chilly gloomy windy Saturday, but Sunday was purely beautiful. The Union Street Festival has been for the last two years much more tame. Gone are the beer gardens. Is it a good thing? Well, it all depends on how you look at it. Having the beer gardens brings in more revenue, employs more security, and overall people tend to spend much more money and eat more when they drink. On the flip-side, having the beer gardens give drunkards a reason to get wasted. Neighbors, business owners, and the authorities dislike having them because there always ends up being someone who’s had way too much and the typical aftermath of people throwing up and even relieving themselves all over the place is such a nuisance.

So with a more relaxing atmosphere, slowly the attendees start to change with the times. Less and less are the attendance of frat boys and sorority girls, though the young adult crowd is still vibrant, they are just prohibited from drinking on the street publically. What’s new this year since the festival is a “dry” one? Well, the newest addition to the festival this year was a cooking demonstration program. The cooking demo stage on Gough Street featured four cooking sessions each day of the festival. Guests were able to taste test all the dishes once the chefs finished preparing them and everyone was able to watch from their seats and see exactly what went into the pots and pans with a downward angled mirror overlooking an awesome cooking countertop and range. Something I would love personally in my backyard. Also new to the festival was the addition of Eco-Urban vendors and awareness.

Highlight of the festival is the annual Waiters Race. Competitors are rounded up from the current week’s vendors and sponsors at the festival in teams of three. Each team had an equal chance at winning the $300 cash prize. There were several heats of racing, but it all came down to two teams. A team of firefighters and a foods vendor team given the nickname The Ragin’ Cajuns. After the heated battle up and down Webster Street, the SFFD firefighters came out victorious and took home $300.

The festival seemingly a smaller attended one this year, I found myself enjoying the weather and allowing myself to meet some of the vendors and took the time to check out some of the arts & crafts and gained some knowledge about the term shawarma, about bus trips to LA for $1, and other interesting factoids. I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy a festival in a long time. It’s actually pretty relaxing, when I’m not photographing all the time.

If you missed out on this festival, there is plenty more this Summer. The street festival season is just starting. Hope to see you on the Streets of San Francisco.

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Union Street Festival 2012 (1)

Waiters Race Preliminaries

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Service with a smile

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Two teams face off in the pursuit of the $300 cash prize in the Union Street Festival's Waiters Race

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Ready...Set...Go!!!

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Close competition

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Team Ragin' Cajun exchanges last relay in the Waiters Race Finals

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The winners of the Waiters Race (SFFD)

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The owner of this dog told a man that her dog was a mixed breed. The man then said, "With what...Cotton Candy?"

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Popcorn and Lemonade, a festival staple

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Yo-Yo artists entertain the crowd in the Kid's Area of the Union Street Festival

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A man just playing the banjo on the sidewalk

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Playing the guitar

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This drummer is boss!

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Sunny day for some ice cream

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Delicious Crab Garlic Fries

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Zesting a lemon

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Cooking demos on an awesome countertop and range

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This festival goer is a beast! Don't take away her turkey leg

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Friends enjoying a meal on a sunny day

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David Lozeau paints one of his masterpieces at the Union Street Festival

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Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012

The Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival is in its second year and took place in San Francisco at the Peace Plaza in Japantown. The festival a is fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation, which publishes the Nichi Bei Weekly Japanese American newspaper. Several hundred gathered for this festival that focused on dishes made from tofu and/or soy products.

Emcees for the event were George Kiriyama (NBC Bay Area) and Jane Katsuyama (KTVU Channel 2). As emcees, both George and Jane introduced the live music and performances underneath the pagoda at Peace Plaza. They also interviewed the contestants and judges for the main event. Also present were Tofu Ninja and Tofu Panda who brought many smiles to both young and old.

The main event for the Tofu Festival was the final round in the Tofu Dessert Competition. The qualifying competition was held previous to this event and three final competitors fought to be the Tofu Dessert Champion. The three tofu dishes that were in the running was a tofu tiramisu dessert, a tofu mochi dessert, and macaroons made from tofu.

The judges for the competition were Eric Mar (SF District Supervisor), Minh Tsai (Hodo Soy Beanery), Asaki Osato (2012 Cherry Blossom Queen), Grace Keh (sffood.net), and Riko Majillo (Ozumo SF). The desserts were served by Miki Fukai, Chihiro Hirai, and Manami Kidera (Princesses of the 2012 Cherry Blossom Queen’s Program). After the judges tasted all three tofu desserts, they had come to a final decision with third place going to Justin Howard (Tofuramisu), second place going to Deanna Gin (Calamansi Macaroons), and first place tofu champion went to Kenji Shimodaira (Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako).

Following the Tofu Dessert Competition, entertainment on the stage resumed and vendors continued to allow festival goers a chance to taste various foods made with tofu or soy products. For those that fear eating tofu in it’s white curd state or fermented soybeans (natto) there were alternative food trucks on Post Street that served up delicious tasting Asian foods. The two food trucks that I found to be ones that I will be following are Chairman Bao and KoJa Kitchen. Both serve up two unique culinary Asian foods and probably will be the forerunners in those dishes until another competitor joins the market.

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Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (1)

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Guest judges Riko Majillo, Minh Tsai, Eric Mar, Asaki Osato, and Grace Keh (from left to right)

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Justin Howard's Tofuramisu

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Kenji Shimodaira's Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako.

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Deanna Gin's Calamansi Macaroons

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Kenji Shimodaira wins the Tofu Dessert Competition with his Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako.

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A kid in the crowd spots the Tofu Ninja, but can you spot the other ninja in the crowd?

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Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Celebration

Golden Gate Bridge 75

The Golden Gate Bridge celebrated 75 years on May 27th. A bridge that was said can never be built because of various circumstances started construction in the early 1930s and opened on May 27, 1937. The bridge is seen as one of the “Wonders of the World” and is painted with a coat of International Orange paint to help preserve the steel cables and structure from corrosion.

The festival for the bridge was similar to that of a street festival, but held at Marina Green and Crissy Field. Unlike the 50th Anniversary where people were allowed to walk on the bridge, the 75th Anniversary prohibited vehicle lane closures on the bridge for pedestrian use. It was reported that the bridge actually dropped 6ft due to the excess weight. For the bridge to keep its structural integrity it was said that bridge walks of that size and magnitude will no longer occur. Instead the alternative was to hold a festival in the bridge’s honor instead. This year the festival was full of music, food, bridge history and education, corporate vendors, an amazing fireworks show, and much more.

One of the most educational and touching displays that had the most impact on me was one that displayed shoes and chalk outlined shoe prints. The display was to encourage awareness of “jumpers” and to petition for putting up a net under the bridge to prevent jumpers from jumping and to catch them as a safety net. Volunteers and some family members of victims for this educational display wore black T-shirts that displayed the number 1558. That number is the number of victims that came to the bridge as to find a way out of life. Of the 1558 jumping victims, a little over 30 survived the fall. Each pair of shoes represented a jumper. Of the pairs of shoes, some were actual pairs of shoes given to display as a remembrance by the victim’s loved ones and the other remaining shoes were just purely symbolic. The chalk outlined foot prints represented those that jumped and their remains were never recovered.

The representation of the “1558″ display reminded me of a 2006 documentary that was filmed and written by Eric Steel entitled “The Bridge”. Where he interviews family and friends of the victims and even captures footage of such a tragedy. The bridge has been seen to be a magnet for people to come, but I would never recommend to take the easy way out. There’s always help and someone that can help with your pain. All I can say is, “Don’t do it. There’s so much to live for, even though things may not be clear for you in your exact moment of trouble or suffering.” Help is always just around the corner, you just have to look.

On a much happier note, two main stages, one at Marina Green and the other at Crissy Field, booked musical artists that entertained guests from 11am to 9:30pm, with a break for fireworks and the Mickey Hart Band to finish off the festival at 10pm at the Crissy Field Stage. Food vendors were located throughout the festival. Lines were extremely long for hot food items; therefore, patience is a virtue.

The fireworks show was one of the best shows that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. One thing, however, that I disliked about the show was that integrity of the show was not concentrated in one location on the water. I, along with other media, assumed that the show would be contained at the bridge and under the bridge. Little did we know was that the show would spread out along the waterfront. What a horrible decision to do that because it makes it much more difficult to capture the show on camera and video camera because no one ever wants to reposition a camera back and forth and adjust camera settings throughout the show.

Although constantly changing camera position/direction and settings bothered me greatly, I’ve seen some amazing video and photos of others on the internet, but even they had the opportunity to only capture a small number of money shots. I, particularly, had a hard time because the one thing that I feared most to happen had happened. My camera battery died right at the beginning of the show and I had to put in a replacement. The next thing that I found to be extremely difficult was to juggle between two cameras to do videography and photography at the same time. This is a no-no. Never do this. I was so excited for this fireworks show that I wanted to capture every single moment by myself. It’s just way too complicated to do two things at the same time. Lesson learned.

Overall the fireworks and light show was phenominal. The weather sure cooperated as there was no heavy fog and it was windy enough to blow the smoke away. This show allowed for me to experience for the first time the bridge lights turned completely off, with the exception of the red aerial lights atop the towers and cables sections. Several other features of the show seemed to amaze me, like seeing a downward stream of falling fireworks that created a wall of fire underneath the center span of the bridge to the water. The colored spot lights moving all around on the bridge and on a couple of boats added more drama to the show. Lastly, the traditional fireworks display was spectacular with so much color and various variety of shapes. I love pyrotechnics.

Many congratulations to the Golden Gate Bridge as it celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary. If you thought that this festival was amazing, I wonder how much more grand the 100th anniversary will be. Hope to see you all there in 25 years.

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Golden Gate Bridge 75 (1)

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San Francisco Carnaval Grand Parade 2012

Carnaval Grand Parade

The Carnaval Grand Parade has to got to be one of the most colorful vibrant parades out there. This lively festival of colors took to the streets on Sunday. The weather for the day was overcast, but thank goodness that the rain stayed away and the harsh sun was behind those clouds. Temperature was warm, yet breezy and chilly. Those of you that are from San Francisco know what I mean.

The parade started off promptly at 9:30am and lasted for almost three hours. The streets were crowded and full of people eagerly waiting for the festivities. People brought their video cameras and photo cameras to capture this momentous occasion. Children lined the front-lines of the crowds and surprisingly the onlookers were tame with no pushing and shoving.

The parade had units representing countries from all over. Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean islands, and even Africa showed off their culture with song and dance. Streets were lined up with children in ethnic costumes and men and women practically stole the show with elaborate costumes as well. Crazy as it may seem other than the Bay to Breakers, women were practically half naked with boas, feathers, hats, and thongs. This is one of a couple of festivals that display a lot of skin, conservatively speaking.

Highlights of the parade would have to be seeing the entertainers and participants just loving what they were doing and smiling. It’s always a true inspiration to have something in this city that promotes such laughter and joy. Must be something in our water.

Following the parade, the procession led the crowd followers near to the Carnaval festival site that was on Harrison Street. If you missed out on the parade, be sure to check it out next year as it’s always a great time.

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Carnaval Grand Parade (1)

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Grand Marshall for the parade was a singer from Beach Blanket Babylon

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The Grand Marshall Float

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2012 King Roberto & Queen Ashlee

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The famous Leonard Oats Cable Car Ringing Champion of many years

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SF Carnaval 2012

Carnaval SF 2012

I had an opportunity to check out Carnaval in the Mission District. This festival of culture arts and traditional celebrations have people come to this flat land part of San Francisco to enjoy a flurry of culture. The festival portion of Carnaval took place on Harrison Street where people came to enjoy music, food, arts & crafts, and other various forms of entertainment (ie. dancing, basketball dunking, games, children’s play area)

As a part of the tradition of Carnaval the countries that participate in the festivities are Mexico, Central America, South America, and islands of the Caribbean. Two main stages on opposite ends had bands play Latin music that entertained people and enough energy to get people to get their feet moving to the groove. There were also a few other stages and areas where music was played that got people in the mood for dancing.

This year NBA Nation sponsored by Sprint brought in various fun activities for all ages. The program entertained and educated. Darryl Dawkins made a special appearance and greeted fans. He was courteous to autograph and take pictures with a smile.

The festival lasted two days with the highlight of the festival being the Grand Parade on Sunday morning. The parade will bring in the majority of people to this festive occasion.

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Carnaval SF 2012 (1)

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Darryl Dawkins

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45th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade

CBF 2012

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade hit the streets of San Francisco yesterday. Starting at City Hall, sharing space right next to this year’s Earth Day San Francisco, and finishing off in the heart of Japantown. The Grand Parade caps off two weeks of live entertainment in music, cultural dance performances, cultural arts, martial arts, education, and so much more.

The weather seemed to cooperate with San Franciscan’s this weekend. Saturday having hot and sunny skies, while Sunday brought dense fog early and then broke apart a bit towards the later afternoon. As long as there was no rain, it’s perfect weather in San Francisco and a great day for a parade.

The parade had the usual units that attend annually, but what makes this parade a great one is that so much of the Japanese culture is shown all in just a two-hour span, from music to dance. Highlights of the parade are seeing the little children march down with their classmates supporting their schools or community centers, visiting pageant queens and their courts from Seattle, Honolulu, and LA, the past year and current reigning queens and court of San Franciso as well, demonstrations in martial arts or sword weaponry, taiko drumming, and the carrying of different Japanese shrines.

The one unit that surprisingly brought back memories growing up in San Francisco was an old Muni bus that drove down the route. It was of the old days, though freshly painted, and I can still remember riding it to and from home. My earliest memories on that style of bus was that you can ring the bell to inform the driver to stop multiple times. Now you can only pull the string for the bell once or “push” a button. The time that I can remember the most was ringing the bell almost eight times before I almost got in trouble because I was so excited to hear that chime, the driver was nice enough not to yell at me and traumatize me for life. Ahh those were the days. One more thing, I just remembered, do you even remember when the bus windows would rust or get stuck and they’d never open or close? Do you also remember that they seem to have stronger engines and drove faster than the ones that we have today? They broke down a lot more back then than they do now and less pollution are the benefits of a new fleet.

Anyhow, going back to the parade, the parade was lots of fun seeing familes and friends enjoy themselves and myself also being able to see friends that I’ve met throughout the years. It’s just a fun and exciting place to be every year and that’s one of the main reasons why I attend.

Following the parade, music entertainment resumed, the annual anime fashion show took to the stage, and the food booths were constantly busy. My mouth waters just thinking about the good eats.

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Pageant Queens and their courts, and distinguished guests
The President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Pageant Queens and their courts, Consul General of Japan, and Festival Co-Chairman

2012's Miss San Francisco, Miss Golden Gate, Miss SF Outstanding Teen, Miss GG Outstanding Teen
2012′s Miss San Francisco, Miss Golden Gate, Miss SF Outstanding Teen, Miss GG Outstanding Teen

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2012 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen of Honolulu

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Do you remember riding these buses? I even think they're faster than the ones today!

Do you remember riding these buses? I even think they're faster than the ones today!

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2012 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and her Court

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45th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program

Queen Program

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program last night put on it’s 45th Annual Program. This year five lovely ladies competed for the queen title. Miki Fukai, Asaki Osato, Megumi Yoshida, Manami Kidera, and Chihiro Hirai put on a great show at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown.

Scoring for the competition was broken up into five catagories: Essay (15%), Personal Interview (20%), Introduction Speech (20%), On-Stage Interview (30%), and Talent (15%)

The competition started off with introduction speeches in traditional kimonos, the ladies then sat down to answer five questions with a 4-minute limit, but none of the contestants used up their whole time. The ladies then presented gifts to their sponsors followed up with the talent portion of the program.

Talent portion started with Chihiro Hirai who performed a monologue. Manami Kidera sang a song in Japanese. Asaki Osato danced to her own choreographed dance. Miki Fukai played the trumpet with accompanied music. Megumi Yoshida sang a song in English with an accompanied bass player.

Following the talent portion, some awards were given out and the 2011 Cherry Blossom Queen and her court came up on stage. Queen Jeddie Kawahatsu gave her closing remarks about her court and she thanked them individually.

Lastly, the ladies came out on stage in their evening wear and performed a quick routine before they lined up to have the winners announced. When the names were being called the moment that was unforgettable was when the Queen was to be announced. Asaki Osato was stunned to find out that her name was being called. She was in disbelief. As she was being sashed and crowned she gave out a couple of confused-like grunts as if she couldn’t believe it. This made parts of the audience laugh as the theater was silent with no background music. Everyone could hear her and see her smirks. Just made me laugh inside, but trust me I was trying to keep my composure as a photographer.

Overall, the program was good though this is one of the first pageants that I’ve been to that had less than at least nine contestants. The lighting was a bit disappointing, but then again, this is moreso a movie theater and not really a theater focusing on live performances, though there are performances there sometimes.

Queen Program results for 2012:

Queen: Asaki Osato

1st Princess: Megumi Yoshida

Tomodachi Award Recipient (Miss Congeniality): Miki Fukai

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San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival 30

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The Center for Asian American Media hosted the 30th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival for the past week and a half. The festival is the largest Asian American Film Festival in the United States and draws thousands of supporters every year. The red carpet is pulled out for famous celebrities and those that are up-and-coming. The festival honored Joan Chen for her great achievement in being a pioneer of Asian American media.

This year kicked off at the famous Castro Theatre, with the world premier of “White Frog” directed by Quentin Lee, with a great supporting cast. The feature starred renowned actress Joan Chen, BD wong, Booboo Stewart, Harry Shum Jr., and Tyler Posey. After the premier, guests headed over to the Asian Art Museum to enjoy the always fun and festive Opening Night Gala to mingle, eat and drink, and dance the night away.

Over the weekend, the festival held a program called Directions in Sound, where artists can display their talents through music. The festival also hosted the Festival Forum, which is the festivals largest free program, where guests can watch local artists, performers, and other media. The forum was held in Japantown’s Peace Plaza. The Centerpiece film for the festival was “Yes, We’re Open” by Richard Wong and H.P. Mendoza.

The festival held surprisingly the most entertaining program that I have ever been to at the SFIAAFF, that program came last Wednesday when Tadashi Nakamura brought his documentary about Jake Shimabukuro to the big screen in its premier. The well written and captured scenes throughout Jake’s tour around the world playing the ukulele was one of the best documentaries that I’ve ever seen. Following the documentary was a special live performance by Jake Shimabukuro. Throughout his performance he was joined on stage by The Dominator, who won a contest giving him the opportunity to play live on stage.  Jake then followed up by playing alongside his brother and his mother who sang. The program at the Castro Theatre was a sell out and I cannot remember a time when the whole building was filled.

The SF Closing Night program, Prison Dancer: The interactive Web Musical, was very unique and different, where the audience took participation in this interactive experience. The web musical is based on the Philippine prisoners who were known for dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The program featured the web based media that was made alive through a karaoke-styled performance by the characters themselves. The characters also got the audience to move and dance along to one of the created dances. The web series will be updated about every two weeks on their website.

Finally, as the festival closed out their week in San Francisco, San Jose became the heart of the festival as the last remaining three days of the festival moved about 50 miles south. The San Jose Opening Night feature was Michael Kang’s “Knots” with actors, such as Sung Kang and Illeana Douglas. The movie was followed up by a gala at the San Jose Museum of Art.

The SFIAAFF Jury Award Winners for 2012 are:
In The Family: Comcast Narrative Award
A Lot Like You: Best Documentary Award
Director Patrick Wang (In The Family): Emerging Filmmaker Award

Loni Ding Award: Mina T. Son for Roots and Reality

If you would like more information about the festival please visit their website at www.caamedia.org

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SFIAAFF Launch Party

SFIAAFF Launch Party

Last night, the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) threw a launch party for the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival’s 30th year. The festival showcases a wide array of Asian American media from music to film. The launch party this year was held at 111 Minna which is a space used as an art gallery as well as a lounge/bar. The night kicked off with a good large crowd; more people came than expected. Festival Goers and other friends are expected to visit the largest Asian American Film Festival in the United States this coming March. Festival kicks off on March 8th and will run until the 18th with eight days in San Francisco and three days in San Jose.

For more festival information, please check out http://caamedia.org

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