Here's a colorful annual event that draws attendees from many Inner Southeast cultural groups

DAVID F. ASHTON - This Portland Taiko drummer pounds out a throbbing rhythm for the Bon Odori dancers.Just south of S.E. Powell Boulevard, in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, Obonfest (Obon) – a traditional summertime Japanese (and Japanese-American) festival, commemorating one's ancestors – was again celebrated on Saturday, August 5.

The Oregon Buddhist Temple Board (OBT) President Judy Hittle, and event organizer Charlie Reneau, told THE BEE about it as the festival was getting underway that afternoon.

In the Obon tradition, Hittle said, ancestors are honored by hanging white lanterns. "It's a joyful time, to think about your ancestors; I have lanterns hung honoring my parents and in-laws."

In addition to the culturally appropriate food vended to guests at the festival, central to the "Bon Odori" is the Obon dance. Experienced Bon Odori dancers led the group circled in the parking lot area, encouraging everyone to follow along.

"I really enjoy doing the dancing; and everyone – Buddhist or not – is invited to join in these joyous dances," Hittle enthused. "I grew up with Obon in Hawai'i, and went to just about every single one."

Reneau explained that the day-long event is the major annual fundraiser for their temple, presented by a crew of more than 100 volunteers, some of whom have worked for a full week to prepare the food and decorations for the celebration.

Inside, resident OBT minister Reverend Yuki Sugahara gave talks about the temple, founded in 1903, and the practice of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism – a non-monastic sect geared to ordinary people.

"This festival, and the talks given by our Reverend, is a way for people who want to learn more about us can do so; we don't go out and 'sell' ourselves," Hittle said. With that, she joined the merry throng of people dancing to the beat of a Portland Taiko drummer.

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