April 7th is National Beer Day, and we are pleased to share reflections and supportive messages from key members of our Sapporo Beer Garden Committee! Sapporo Beer Garden serves thousands of visitors every year, operating multiple tents in the Food Bazaar and near the Japantown Peace Plaza and Webster Street Stage. We are grateful for this committee for everything they do to keep the beer flowing, so we may enjoy this refreshment with festive eats and live music in the heart of San Francisco Japantown.
Although we are not operating the Food Bazaar and Beer Garden, we are hosting Hanami in the Plaza, a safe, socially distanced outdoor dining space at Japantown Peace Plaza, for everyone to enjoy takeout from Japantown businesses. Present your receipt with your party of up to six persons at check in, then dine under a spacious tent or in the sunshine with cherry blossoms in bloom. Hanami in the Plaza takes place for two weekends, April 10-11 and 17-18, 2021, from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. PT.
We look forward to a future in-person festival where we can enjoy good times in the Beer Garden again. Please read the following stories by Grant Tsuji, Kristina Boyd, Kevin Sato, and Addison Balasbas.
Written by Grant Tsuji:
“beer, BEER, BEER!……… HERE!, HERE, here,” Sean Barnacascel announces to the world. And No-body delivers it like him. With thousands of our guests drawn to what we call POST-ER (one of our booths centrally located at Post St and Webster St), those lucky ones who are 21 and older, and much older can enjoy an ice cold Sapporo. From Big Kevin Sato and Grumpy Allan Chin to Chris Peterson and his Wing-man, our diverse group of volunteers bring, energy, knowledge, experience, and BEER to the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s (NCCBF) Beer Garden. Our Beer Garden would not be possible nor legal without its distinct borders, entrances, and exits. This is where Kristina Boyd and her friends from Logistics help us set up and follow strict guidelines and mandatory protocols that now seem trivial compared to what Covid-19 has unleased on us. Behind the scenes, everyone in the know, knows that our operations would not flow without Amy Sujishi and Cary Honda.
On behalf of the NCCBF, our Beer Garden Committee and Crew cannot express how grateful we are to our sponsor, Sapporo… Kampai! Sapporo’s generosity and dedicated support allows our Festival to foster cultural awareness by bringing Japanese culture, art, food, and beer to Northern California. We also feel much appreciation towards our other partners that help contribute to the success of our Beer Garden as well. Thank you to our friends at the San Francisco Police Department, Northern District, and the San Francico Asian Peace Officers’ Association for helping keep our Festival safe and fun for our guests. Also, our Festival would not be complete without the rich traditions that the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco and his staff provide each and every year, arigatou-gozaimasu! Finally, our Beer Garden leaders, Cara Mia Barnacascel and I always feel grateful and proudly acknowledge our roots with the NCCBF Queen Program and their former chair, the godfather of Japantown, Benh Nakajo. Without leaders and mentors such as him, our community and Festival would not be what it is today.
Now, let’s look forward to making new memories one pint at a time, Thank you! and Kampai!
Written by Kristina Boyd:
The entire Cherry Blossom Festival is a family event, where people come together and spend time with their friends and family. Even strangers feel like family when they come out and experience the camaraderie of this multi-cultural event. That experience is magnified with the Beer Garden. We may not see each other constantly throughout the year, but for the two weekends of the Festival, it’s like no time has past, and we are all family. I have made so many new friends volunteering year after year, and I always look forward to seeing our committee members and repeat volunteers.
Our committee meets occasionally throughout the year, soon after the previous Festival — to reflect on the previous year, and find out what we can improve upon; and close to Festival time — to make sure we have our operations buttoned up. So much goes into this entire Festival, and I’m so glad I get to participate with such a fun group that works hard and has a great time keeping the Festival going. We also get to interact with so many other Cherry Blossom Festival groups, which makes our Beer Garden group so much more fun and inclusive.
We always do a group dinner after the Festival day has wrapped up, giving us all a nice chance to wind down together. We always have a great time and we all look forward to our next meeting.
Written by Kevin Sato:
Every year, we plan and strategize. Every year, we sweat and work ourselves sore. Every year, we reminisce and recollect. Every year, we make new memories…
But, it’s the people who make the Beer Garden what it is. From the Committee and its meetings (planning and troubleshooting) to the Volunteers (their happy faces eager to share some Sunshine In A Cup). From the neighboring Food Stalls (Sakura Popcorn barkers from Rosa Parks Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program, Gaylord the Troop Leader) to the Sapporo crew…
The familiar faces that return to our booth, faithfully, year after year, is what makes the Cherry Blossom Festival, for me. Knowing that I (a Real Madrid fan) will see my Favorite Barcelona followers…or, the guys I used to play against in NAU…or, my cousin’s cousin helping his kid’s group…or, the social media poster whose picture I’m in every year…or, the New-To-The-Festival, Just-Happened-To-Be-In-The-Neighborhood faces…these are reasons why I come back, looking forward to catching up with everyone that makes the Beer Garden and the Cherry Blossom Festival memorable.
While we may not be able to have an in-person experience this year, may next year bring a cup full of new memories.
Written by Addison Balasbas:
My first experience with the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival was back in 2015. I started as a general volunteer, signing up to help with anything the Festival needed. Being 21+ I was assigned to the Beer Garden, assisting with identification checks and ensuring alcohol did not leave the designated drinking zones. While volunteering, I got to know some of the Beer Garden Committee. They always enjoyed volunteering and were able to get everyone to have a good time. By the end of the Festival, committee members and volunteers had shared with me their first experiences with the NCCBF, some from a few years prior to over a decade before. Hearing their stories, experiencing their passion for the NCCBF and seeing the enjoyment they bring to the community, I knew I wanted to come back and volunteer with them again. Flash forward to NCCBF 2016. In a year’s time, I had begun working at a bar. Returning to volunteer with the Beer Garden Committee, I felt right at home serving up beer, swapping kegs, and maintaining the equipment.
I’m not Japanese, but I am interested in Japanese culture. Personally, the closest ties I have to the culture are my father’s roots back to Oahu (which is a stretch for me to claim as my own, not to mention those roots are more so in Hawaiian culture than Japanese). However, if there’s one thing I know, when the Beer Garden Committee is together at the festival, I experience the same Aloha as I would with my family or when back on the islands. Working with the Beer Garden Committee, no matter how the day plays out: if there aren’t enough volunteers, if we start running low on supplies, or if I mistap the keg and get soaked in Sapporo, we take each moment together, support one another, and enjoy every moment of it. Volunteering the NCCBF on the Beer Garden Committee is something I look forward to annually, from the morning festival setup up, to the serving of Sapporo in the day, through the Festival break down and sharing a meal together at night. I will continue looking forward to the day we can celebrate again in person, until then Kanpai.