Kadena opens its gates to trick-or-treaters
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- More than 5,000 Okinawan visitors packed Kadena's streets and sidewalks Oct. 31 to join the ghoulish Halloween festivities.
Local employees were authorized to bring friends and family members, and more than 422 Okinawan visitors were invited to be bussed on Kadena in an effort to share the unique experience with the off-base community.
"By doing this we give back something to our Okinawan community who accept our Air Force members as their friends on island," said Sayaka Kawatake, 18th Wing Public Affairs community relations specialist. "The local children get a taste of an American festivity while American families gain an opportunity to meet the young local guests coming to their place. Halloween is not only about exchanging candy, but about small interactions we make at the door."
Col. Thomas Torkelson, 18th Wing vice commander, welcomed the group of 400-plus visitors as they were gathering at the Chibana Golf Course prior to the event.
"Thank you for being such wonderful neighbors and giving so much to our Airmen and our families," Torkelson told those in attendance. "Tonight is a small way for us to give something back to you, and I hope each of you enjoys your time trick-or-treating with American families."
Following introductions, parents, children and members of the base Pumpkin Patrol - volunteers escorting the families - loaded onto buses and were dropped off in housing areas around the base. Kawatake said a lot of organizations helped make the event a success, helping focus on the volunteers, safety, transportation and communication.
"I can tell from the local trick-or-treaters who returned home in excitement and joy - they were all smiling and happy," Kawatake said. "A child even prepared origami crafts to say "thank you" to our volunteers. They understand how hard our team has worked to make that event happen. Thanks to the professionalism of Team Kadena, we were able to host over 5,000 trick-or-treaters base-wide safely and uneventfully."