With the Okinawan Festival fast approaching, there are many people that have volunteered their expertise in many ways and some have done so for a very long time, like Kent Billings who isn’t even Okinawan by blood, but proves different by putting his heart into his help.

“I’ve been helping the HUOA and Club Motobu for over 20 years now.  My wife is Okinawan and her family has roots in Motobu in Okinawa.  I was a machinist with the Air Force for many years and I enjoy building things at home, so I made things like the Andagi Express Cart to help sell more Andagi at the Festival. I draft a map of the Convention Center floor to scale and work closely with the Festival team to figure out the configurations for each of the booths.  It’s a big team effort by the entire committee and we are all volunteers – so I’m always happy to lend my skills and be helpful in anyway I can.”

Jessica Yamamoto also helps with the festival, and wants the younger generation to know its very rewarding and they can help too.

“Ever since I was a child I was always fascinated by Okinawan stuff – I loved the Okinawan drums and music at Bon Dances and wanted to learn how to do it.  So I joined the Hawaii Eisa Shinyu Kai and started performing with them at Bon Dances across the island. One of the most fun things I got to do last year was emcee the Virtual Bon Dance that we did for the 2021 Virtual Okinawan Festival – even thought it was virtual, we were able to engage with people online and even show people at home how to do some of the moves. The video is still online for those of you who want to experience a virtual bon dance – it’s more fun to watch with friends and try and dance along!”

All the hard work will be put together this weekend at the Okinawan festival at the Hawaii Convention Center.