CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, JAPAN --
U.S. service members and their families gather during the 2021 Hansen Festival, to enjoy an assortment of performances and fun-filled activities on Camp Hansen, March 13.
While following the current COVID-19 mitigation efforts, thousands of attendees enjoyed food provided by local vendors, carnival-style rides, festivities and performances from various dance groups and bands. The event was the first festival hosted by Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Everyone was able to be a family again,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary Schafer, a correctional specialist with Marine Corps Installations Pacific Brig.
“The fact that we were able to enjoy this festival and follow the proper COVID-19 guidelines, shows that we are pushing through the challenges of the pandemic. Not only was it a much needed break from work, it was the first time I’ve been able to interact with other units on Okinawa.”
Schafer, a native of Lincoln, Illinois, explained that since the beginning of the pandemic, many people have not had the opportunity to experience live music and entertainment. He expressed that, through the festivities, the camaraderie felt between participants was unlike anything he had experienced before.
The festival included numerous presentations throughout the day featuring Kenzi, a street performer, Ouka, a traditional Japanese dance group, Backyard Funk, a jazz and funk band, the Koza City Rockers, a rock and roll cover band, and closing with Mattalica, a Metallica tribute band. Each entertainer spent 30 minutes to an hour on stage, attracting socially-distant attendees to experience the array music and talents displayed.
Photo by Lance Cpl. Alex Fairchild
“It’s all about giving back to service members and their families,” said Sharod Croom, the entertainment coordinator with MCCS Okinawa. “I have been working with MCCS since I was 16 years old. I have always had a passion for bringing others together and giving them a chance to express their interests and enjoy themselves.”
Croom, a native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, explained that he was also happy to bring a smile to the performers and bands. Many of them had not had the opportunity to perform on stage since the beginning of the pandemic. He added that each of the groups were eager to get on stage and share their passions and talents with the community again.
“This festival is a sign of hope and good things to come,” said Croom. “We are going to continue to follow the proper COVID-19 safety measures and push through the challenges to make events like this happen in the future.”
For more information about upcoming events, visit http://mccsokinawa.com.