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SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2007
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Lynne Holmes, a finish operator at Daikin America plant in Decatur, performs at last year’s Daikin Festival, a free event the company gives in appreciation to the community. This photo by Daily Staff Photographer Jonathan Palmer won first place in the Best Feature Photo category in the 2007 Alabama Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer
Lynne Holmes, a finish operator at Daikin America plant in Decatur, performs at last year’s Daikin Festival, a free event the company gives in appreciation to the community. This photo by Daily Staff Photographer Jonathan Palmer won first place in the Best Feature Photo category in the 2007 Alabama Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.

Cultural delight at annual Daikin America Festival

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Grab a Happi Coat and join in the celebration Friday night at the annual Daikin America Festival.

This annual event mingling favorites from several cultures will include hamburgers, hot-air balloons and the Alabama Blues Brothers, jambalaya and a Cajun and Zydeco band, and Yakisoba and Japanese folk dances and drums.

It’s all fun, and best of all, Daikin provides everything free from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Morgan County Fairgrounds behind Home Depot.

This Decatur industry throws a big party for the community every year at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s been growing every year,” said Forrest Keith of Decatur, human resources and general affairs manager for Daikin America Inc. “Last year we had 15,000, and we anticipate at least that or more this year.”

All area residents are invited.

He also expects many Japanese VIPS from the parent company, Daikin Industries Ltd. Of Japan, who schedule production and other meetings at this time of year so they can join in the fun of the big party.

Going up in tethered hot-air balloons is a favorite activity for many. Daikin has lined up 20 balloons and pilots who already will be in town to participate in Alabama Jubilee balloon festival at Point Mallard Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Music for the evening will include Lee Benoit and the Bayou Stompers, a Cajun and Zydeco band from Louisiana; the Alabama Blues Brothers; rock and roll, country and Japanese.

“Some of our Daikin employees will play the Japanese Taiko Drums, and they are good at it, too,” said Keith.

Prizes are planned for guests who participate in the Japanese folk dances, “so if you don’t get in the dance circle around the main stage at dance time, you will miss out,” he said.

Those who picked up Japanese-style Happi Coats at previous festivals should wear them. There will be Japanese cultural exhibits, Daikin product exhibits and activities such as learning to write your name in Japanese.

Other displays will feature local fifth-graders’ art from the annual Daikin art contest, as well as the Daikin Homestay Program. For 14 summers, Daikin has sent 13 area students and two teachers to live with families in Japan for two weeks.

The food will include Japanese Yakisoba, a stir-fry mix of noodles, cabbage, carrots and beef; Southern barbecue; hot dogs and hamburgers; popcorn, cotton candy and ice cream; and homemade Cajun jambalaya.

“We have several engineers whose favorite thing every year is to make this giant batch of jambalaya for our guests,” Keith said. Door prizes will be given away throughout the evening. Guests must be present to win the grand prize, a trip to Acapulco, Mexico. The winning number will be drawn about 8:45 p.m., Keith said.

The gates will open at 6:15 p.m. Friday, and Keith recommends riding one of the shuttle buses running to satellite parking locations at Austin High School and Colonial Mall.

“That’s the best way to get in there, because at the end of the evening, there’s a lot of traffic coming out of the fairgrounds,” said Keith. “Decatur police do a great job of keeping traffic moving smoothly, but it’s so much easier to hop on one of the shuttle buses and ride it to one of those remote parking sites.”

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