Tonari Gumi’s involvement in this year’s Powell Street Festival was a banner success. This was particularly notable because most of Tonari Gumi’s staff were either dealing with the Powell Street Festival for the first time or having to take on responsibilities they had not had before. As a consequence, there were many challenges to overcome and some of the staff had to deal with more stress than normal, but thanks to the exceptional efforts put in by our amazing volunteers, we were able to overcome the initial jitters and deliver the best results for Tonari Gumi in the past five years.
Many people have commented over the years on how enthusiastic Tonari Gumi’s volunteers are and how hard they work at the Powell Street Festival. What many may not know, however, is how many different volunteers are involved each year. This year, anticipating good weather, we recruited a few more volunteers than normal and some 150 different individuals, ranging from elementary school age to their early 90’s, worked together to bring about Tonari Gumi’s successful results. Tonari Gumi’s food is always popular among the festival goers and this year was no exception with Tonari Gumi selling record numbers of cold noodle salads (hiyashi chu-ka), mochi manju (Japanese sweet rice-cakes); sushi bento boxes, California rolls and inari-zushi (Japanese rice bags). Among the many volunteers who stepped forward to work long hours at producing our delicious and colourful sushi were Kazu Motohashi, Miwako Manns and Yukio Moizumi. Many others, too numerous to identify individually spent many hours to create the tasty dishes being sold at the Festival. We even imported some of our staff directly from Japan, as two of our volunteers cooking the ramen noodles for our salads, were soba noodle chefs who came specifically to help Tonari Gumi during this festival. Many of our volunteers had served at the Powell Street Festival for many years and were very often much more knowledgeable on what needed to be done than our brand new staff.
Another perennial favourite at Tonari Gumi’s craft and community tent are the many all-occasion cards produced by our seniors. Designed with colourful hand-folded origami dolls or individually pressed and dried local flowers, these cards are individual works of art and many hundreds were sold at the Festival. Also popular at the Festival is Tonari Gumi’s used Japanese dolls, used pottery and porcelain, and — of course — the gorgeous used kimono’s and yukatas which were displayed at the entrance to Tonari Gumi’s compound. Current and former directors served at the Community Tent and provided information on Tonari Gumi’s on-going programs and up-coming events such as our ever popular Premium Sake Tasting Night.
We wish to extend a special thanks to all of our many suppliers (Angel Seafoods deserves special mention), donors, volunteers and staff. Without all of these many different individuals working together, Tonari Gumi would not be able to achieve what it does. Thank you for your help. Anyone wishing to volunteer at Tonari Gumi, should contact Tonari Gumi at (604) 687-2172 or go on-line at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.