If you’re driving through Sebastopol late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, you may notice that the air is saturated with delicious aromas: The scent of chicken, marinated in delicious teriyaki sauce, on the grill. Cooking for the 57th Annual Chicken Teriyaki & Bazaar begins hours before the drive-through pick up opens at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. By the time the fete concludes at 5 p.m., 4,000 chicken Teriyaki plates (half a chicken, potato salad, rice and coffee or tea; $11) will have been sold.
The main gate opens at 10 a.m. and there is no admission charge. You need tickets to purchase foods and beverages and there are several tables where you can get them.
Over six decades, the event has blossomed, attracting members of the Japanese community from throughout the Bay Area. It peaked at about 6,000 dinners and has leveled out at 4,000 for the past several years, as an increasing number of events offer competition. But 4,000 seems to be holding.
It is one of the best events of the summer and if you’ve not attended, you should. If you have attended, there’s a good chance you’ve already decided it’s not to be missed. If you have a story about the event, please share it in the comments section below.
There’s more than just the barbecue. There’s a great plant sale, with unusual varieties and surprisingly low prices. Lance Lew makes extraordinary flower arrangements, also very reasonably priced. There’s a bonsai exhibit, games for kids and adults, handcrafts and a White Elephant booth, tours of the historic Enmanji Buddhist Temple by Rev. Carol Himaka, beer, wine and tea and many good things to eat in addition to the teriyaki. A highlight is imagawyaki, a Japanese pastry filled with sweet Azuki bean paste; people buy boxes of a dozen and more. There’s inarizushi (fried tofu skin stuffed with rice, vegetables and seaweed), there’s often butter mochi and coconut mochi and there’s a shave ice booth, with my favorite flavor, root beer among the offerings. A few years ago, they added hamburgers as an option, too.
There’s also entertainment. This year, Hawaiian music and dance kicks off the entertainment at 11 a.m. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I will be among the first dancers of the day; we will present a beautiful kahiko (ancient style) hula in costumes each of us has sewn and painted with our own design. After this first dance, Kumu Hula Shawna Alapa’i will continue with several more dances presented by our halau’s professional group. Rohnert Park’s Hawaiian songbird, Faith Ako, wraps up the Hawaiian portion of the day. (Kumu Shawna has not had as much exposure as she should in west Sonoma County so this is a good time to catch her. She teaches a weekly drop-in hula class, Hula Lite, for which you need not have ever taken hula before. If you can’t make Sunday’s event, click here for information about the class, which takes place on Saturdays from 12:30 to 1:30 in Santa Rosa.)
At noon, there’s a karate demonstration by Budo Academy. Sonoma County Taiko is on stage at 1 and 4 p.m. and at 2 there’s a demonstration by DeLeon Judo.
Parking at this year’s event is different than in years past. Much of it will be across Highway 116; Highway Patrol will be on hand to insure safety.
Enmanji Buddhist Temple is located at 1200 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol, at the corner of Elphick Rd.
See you there!