There are bigger festivals and events that I could talk about this weekend, but this one means so much more.
The one I’m referring to is the Obon Memorial Folk Dance Festival that will be taking place on Saturday starting at 5PM. There will be food vendors there offering Japanese cuisine. which certainly makes it a place to go for a food enthusiast…but there’s a lot more to this story than just ethnic cuisine.
As Lisa and I go along, doing our blog thing and learning more and more about the South Jersey region, we come across things that amaze us, inspire us, and forever change us. I have mentioned before the wonderful Down Jersey Cooking cookbook written by the late Joe Colanero. As I was leafing through it, I was struck by the number of Japanese-style recipes and that there were a number of Japanese families that at one time had lived in Seabrook, which is just outside of Bridgeton in Cumberland County. It was also mentioned that right there in Seabrook was a Japanese Buddhist temple, which is still very much there today.
I flipped through further in the book and found out why all this was the case: these families, totaling about 500, had moved there in 1945 after being released from the internment camps that had held 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which gave the military the right to hold those considered to be a potential threat in designated areas and essentially take away their rights as American citizens. And this order was used to force Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast to be moved into internment camps, where they would stay until the end of the war.
It’s something that is almost unimaginable to believe – that this could happen here in this country. Imagine if after 9/11, tens of thousands of Arab-American citizens in New York City, Jersey City and Dearborn, Michigan were notified that they had a week to gather their things, leave their jobs and businesses behind, and be held behind barbed wire surrounded by military personnel.
So how does Seabrook, New Jersey fit into this story? Well, Seabrook is the home of Seabrook Farms, which was at the time a leader in the frozen foods industry. The war had put a strain on the available workforce, and they were able to make a deal in which they could recruit interned Japanese-Americans to work in their farms. After the war ended, families were relocated, with 500 or so ending up in Seabrook. To their credit, not only did Seabrook Farms provide jobs, but they also built housing for these families as well as the Buddhist temple. And every year since 1945, the Obon Festival has taken place there at the temple.
The obon odori dance that is performed at the festival is a dance of joy, which honors those who have passed before. It seems entirely appropriate that such a dance would be performed at a location where those who dealt with the hardship of having their adopted country incarcerate them not only survived but were able to somewhat piece their lives back together.
Now here’s the rest of your roundup for the weekend…
On Friday and Saturday you have lots of family-friendly events, such as the Cape May County 4-H Fair and Chicken Bar-B-Que in Cape May Court House. One of the biggest ones that we usually look forward to is the Ocean County Fair out at Robert J Miller Air Park in Berkeley Township. One of the longest running events in the state is also going through the weekend and ending on Sunday: The 135th Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Italian Festival in Hammonton. You read that right folks- it’s 135 years old . Both are going on all weekend but wrapping up on Sunday. Or maybe you need a romantic outing or a fun jaunt with some friends? You might want to check out the Walk in the Vineyard Wine Trail Weekend, happening at participating wineries throughout South Jersey.
Saturday-only events include various foodstuffs. How about a tribute to the tomato? You can head to the Woolwich Township Tomato and Heritage Festival in Woolwich Township. Craving fish? Check out the Seafood Festival in Vineland. But there’s a special place in my heart for ice cream…and what could be better than the New Jersey State Ice Cream Festival in Toms River? We usually make this a yearly must, and you can check out our past experiences here and here. There’s also beer, beer, and more beer at Pour-A-Palooza at PJ’s Pour House Westmont.
Sunday-only events include the blueberry stragglers at the Blueberry Festival at
Our Savior Lutheran Church in Stone Harbor (call for info: 609.368.3031. 6:30PM to 8:30PM).
And don’t forget, Farm to Fork Week begins this Sunday in all of the South Jersey Hot Chefs restaurants in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties. High Street Grill in Mount Holly is also having its Fresh Off the Farm Week at the same, but they are not part of SJ Hot Chefs.
And now for The Farmer’s Market report…
Chef Fred Kellerman from Elements Cafe in Haddon Heights will be having a cooking demo Saturday morning at the Burlington County Farmer’s Market at 10AM. Cost is $5.
Chef Nunzio Patruno of Nunzio’s in Collingswood will also be doing a cooking demo at the Collingswood Farmer’s Market on Saturday.
AND Chef Tony Sparacio of La Campagnola will have a cooking demo of his own at the Medford Lakes Farmer’s Market.
Celebrate Italy tonight at the Hammonton Farmer’s Market.
The cooking class schedule is booming this weekend. At the Viking Cooking School at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, you’ve got Japanese Steakhouse or Best of Class: Casual Dinner Party on Friday, Date Night: In Paris or take the Casual Dinner Party class again on Saturday; and on Sunday you can cook more steak at the Steakhouse Workshop or take the Best of Class: Cocktail Party class.
Sur La Table in Marlton has their Bon Appetit: Bastille Day Bash on Saturday and Summer Italian Cooking on Sunday. Over at Kitchen Capers, Tweens: Campground Treats and Cooking for Couples – Regional Italian Cooking: Explore the Hidden Cuisine of Friuli-Venezia (Northern Italy) is running on Saturday and Classes for Teens – Party Foods for Teens happens on Sunday.
Check out the Pizza Making Class at Tony Boloney’s in Atlantic City or Date Night: Dinner at the Piazza at In The Kitchen Cooking School in Haddonfield (both on Saturday). Or get your “piney” groove on with Berries and Other Edibles of the Pines at the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford (Sunday).
And in the news…
Like babies? Sure, who doesn’t. How about baby clams and oysters? Well, if you’re interested in learning more about ReClam the Bay and the shellfish restoration program in Barnegat Bay, check out the schedule of dates when the nurseries will be open.
This week’s food police blotter: $15,000 in bananas stolen at Vineland Produce Market.
How about being eight-years old, living in a house on Long Beach Island, and your mom has an ice cream shop on the ground floor. Niiiice.
And speaking of ice cream…if the Coast Guard sees kids in boat with their life jacket on, they might just get some ice cream.
As for us, we’re going to miss all of these events this weekend, but with no regrets. Lisa and I are heading out to Pittsburgh for the entire weekend for the wedding of our good friends, Jen and Keith-sans kids. This will be our first weekend away from our two adorable sleep-thieves in two years. We’ll return next week relaxed, rested, and with some (hopefully) good travel tales to tell!