San Mateo Asian American Heritage Celebration (Festival)

On Saturday, May 12, 2007, I visited the San Mateo Asian American Heritage Celebration. Why did I choose this festival? Well, the festival schedule this weekend was light in the types of festivals I tend to attend. To pick among the festivals that marginally interested me, I decided it'd be refreshing to pick one in my own neck of the woods, so close I could walk to it.

It was a small festival, clearly meant to just attract people from one town. In contrast, most of the other festivals I attend are intended to be destinations for either a city or the whole bay area. There were ten or so vendors, mostly selling Asian art (paintings, drawings) or crafts (jewelry, clothes). There were a couple of historical booths, one promoting the San Mateo County Museum and another promoting the National Archive's Pacific Region office with interesting displays discussing the history of immigration into the area.

I grabbed lunch at the festival's one food vendor, Takahashi Market, which mostly sold Hawaiian food. I had the combo plate (picture): kalua pork, baby back ribs (good but quite fatty in places), teriyaki chicken (fairly standard), and macaroni salad (standard as well). I was pretty pleased with the meal.

While eating, I sat barefoot in the park, watched the tail end of a magic/juggling/acrobatics show (that was performed to music from Yanni -- scary that I could identify that), and listened to the large group, J-Town Hui, play some folksy Hawaiian music on ukuleles. While exploring the festivals (yes, festival*s* -- see below) and the park throughout the rest of the day, I returned often to sit in the grass and catch other shows. Charlie Chin's storytelling was the best show I caught. He used his both his voice and his one prop, a fan, well. The fan at times represented a letter, a boat, a mountain range, and even the darkness of night. I also watched Filipino folk dancing: a fairly flamboyant, energetic, colorful affair. Chopsticks are often used to keep the beat. Women dance with glasses of water balanced on their heads. And men sometimes do as well.

Oddly, as I entered Central Park, I noticed another festival: Scout-O-Rama. It was a gathering for boy and girl scouts and was larger than the Asian American Festival. I spent a good fraction of my time exploring this festival as well. Scout-O-Rama was fun because it was filled with many activities: climbing walls, obstacle courses, a rope bridge, a rappelling wall, a catapult that launches water bottles, a barrel kids could get in and be rolled, ... It also had a display of Native American dancing, which I thought was odd until I recalled that Native Americans are in some sense the first scouts. Scout-O-Rama had food as well. It was the typical American stuff: hot dogs, burgers, corn dogs, sausages, churros, popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream. I wouldn't have bought anything there even if I'd noticed the food before I ate lunch.

One feature of Scout-O-Rama bothered me a little. There were some booths promoting organizations such as the army, the marines, and something called "scouts in Iraq." Getting people to think about the military when they're still quite young... Perhaps oddly, I was fine with the SWAT team's booth.

In between exploring the two festivals, I wandered around Central Park. Although I live a mere half a dozen blocks away, I found I had never previously explored it fully. (I thought I had, but apparently I was wrong.) I discovered a nice rose garden and took a picture. All the roses were in bloom! So many colors. And some roses were bigger than my hand! I don't recall ever seeing roses that big.

I also discovered a large playground, a picnic area with grills (I can have a barbecue now), and an arboretum.

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