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Echo Park : For Lotus Festival, It's the Sweet 16th


The loud thumping of the Japanese taiko drums and the classical Japanese dance of the Fujima Kansuma Kai dance troupe will be among the performances at the 16th annual Lotus Festival at Echo Lake Saturday and July 11.

The festival was started to celebrate and promote an understanding of the city's Asian-Pacific Islander cultures through dance, food, arts, entertainment and crafts. About 50,000 are expected to attend the two-day event.

Each year the event showcases one Asian-Pacific Islander community. This year's group is Japanese-Americans, said Charles Tajiri, a member of the festival organizing committee. "There is so much in the Japanese culture that people do not know about," he said. "That's why the Lotus Festival is so significant, it gives people the chance to learn something more about Japanese besides the food."

The celebration will include martial-arts demonstrations, storytelling and pictures of Japanese-Americans along Flower Island.

For the first time, a scholarship program will award eight $250 scholarships this year to students from the Los Angeles Unified, Alhambra and Long Beach school districts.

The festival, which originally focused on the Chinese community, was named after the lotus flower because it signifies enlightenment and purity and was linked to Buddhism. The event has traditionally been at Echo Lake, which features the nation's largest lotus bed, and normally coincides with the blossoming of the flowers, which began to bloom last week.

This year's festival is being produced by Nisei Week, a nonprofit organization that puts together the annual Japanese festival in Little Tokyo.

The Lotus Festival will run Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and July 11 from noon to 8 p.m. The yearly dragon boat races will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by speeches and performances at 2 p.m. The closing ceremony will be at 8:45 p.m. on July 11.

Admission is free.

Information: (213) 485-4876.

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