OGDEN -- The public is invited to participate in a special event next Saturday at the Ogden Buddhist Temple. It's the annual Obon Festival, the congregation's most colorful annual event.
A custom of honoring the deceased spirits of one's ancestors, the festival will mirror a more than 500-year-old Japanese Buddhist custom that now takes place in a host of locations each summer around the world.
"If it wasn't for the suffering of their day, we wouldn't be where we are today," church spokeswoman Annette Coga said in describing the need to honor deceased ancestors.
But Coga explained that the celebration also is about letting go of hurtful feelings and issues in one's own life.
She said the legend of how the celebration began ends with the founder realizing how his life improves when he brings together monks and area residents in song and feasting in honor of the dead.
"Until you can let go of the suffering inside of you, you are your own worst enemy," Coga said, recalling the lesson learned by the festival's founder.
"It's human nature. It's what we do," Coga said of holding on to bad feelings. "It really takes getting involved with something that's more important than yourself."
Church member Geoff Russell said the event remains a major festivity in Japan.
"Tokyo empties out of the native Japanese because they all go home," he said.
The event traditionally is a time of fun and joy. Those involved say that's what they've experienced as their church has held the event over many decades.
"It's the one time that everyone comes to church and gets together and sees all their family and friends," member Ruth Shirock said. "A lot of people come that don't normally come to church, even some of the teenagers and people who don't like to come, they come to this."
Shirok said she has fond memories of the colorful festival from since she could just walk. She is 52.
"I like the dancing," she said.
Bon Odori folk dancing is the central part of the celebration, and nearly everyone from the congregation, as well as a Salt Lake City Japanese Buddhist congregation, participate.
Most of the dances are simple and elegant, lending themselves to being easy for people to learn.
Shirock now serves as a teacher for the dances, as the congregation has been practicing for the last few weeks. She joins Aiko Hamanda in teaching.
Hamanda, 85, has been teaching dance for decades. She learned the steps in her native country, Japan.
"It makes you happy to dance," she said. "You have to like it, even if you don't know how to dance."
Hamanda recalls years when the members danced from Lincoln Avenue to Washington Boulevard and back to the church as part of the celebration.
A coal miner's dance is one that the public will be invited to participate in with the members. It features moves that demonstrate digging, throwing and pushing coal.
"It's so simple that everyone could catch up with us," Hamanda said.
The festival will begin with Japanese food. Starting at 4 p.m., participants may purchase chicken and beef teriyaki bowls, Spam musubi, somen or manju.
The Ogden Buddhist Taiko drummers will perform at 7:30 p.m.
The folk dancing will begin at 8 p.m. and conclude with three dances featuring audience participation.
The Ogden Buddhist Temple is at 155 North St. (400 North).