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Santa Barbara’s Asian American Heritage Gets Its Due with Trust for Historic Preservation Benefit

Good Fortune celebration honors unique Chinese and Japanese communities from the 19th and 20th centuries

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation celebrated the community’s Asian American heritage at a Saturday evening fundraiser called Good Fortune, which was held in the historic center of Santa Barbara. It was a lovely evening of music, dance performance and the presentation of diverse Asian cuisines outdoors at the beautiful Casa de la Guerra.

More than 200 guests enjoyed pan-Asian cuisine prepared by Lorraine Lim Catering and special performances that included dance by Sino West’s Vicki Wang and Dragon Sun and taiko drumming by Togen Daiko.

Almost a year ago event chairwoman and SBTHP board vice president Terease Chin told Noozhawk about her dream and plans for an event honoring Santa Barbara’s unique Chinese and Japanese communities that co-existed side by side along East Canon Perdido in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“The board was so supportive of the idea of this event and the community programs celebrating our Asian American history,” she said. “This is a dream come true for our committee and the Trust.”

Top sponsors were Montecito Bank & Trust, Union Bank, Helene and Jerry Beaver, Central Coast Real Estate, Sandra Chan and Gary Yoshimura, Terease Chin and Ken Yamamoto, Mary Louis Days, Michele and Jarrell Jackman, Keith Mautino, Eve Murphy, M. Kay and William Van Horn, and many others.

Santa Barbara native and Jimmy Chung’s (Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens) granddaughter, Barbara Chung, committed $30,000 toward the upcoming Asian American exhibition. Generous donors Michael Towbes and Gary Yoshimura quickly flashed their bid paddles to donate $5,000 each to raise the $40,000 needed to produce the exhibit. Event committee member Debby Aceves served as an adept live auctioneer.

Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens restaurant was the only remaining sign of Santa Barbara’s historical Chinatown. In 2006, Thomas Chung and his siblings William and Barbara sold the property to the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. The building provides an ideal opportunity to interpret the unique local history of the Chinese, as well as the adjacent Japanese American community. Together their experiences helped shape the development of Santa Barbara and the history of the American West.

During the late 19th and 20th centuries, the area in and around the Santa Barbara Presidio was a culturally rich neighborhood. Chinese and Japanese communities coexisted side by side, offering thriving businesses within buildings that are now historic landmarks. Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens restaurant became the only remaining sign of Santa Barbara’s historical Chinatown. In 2006 Thomas Chung and his siblings, William and Barbara, sold the property to the Trust.

In 2009, “Sharing Our Common Ground” explored Santa Barbara’s Asian American history with a three-part community lecture series. In the same year, SBTHP established both an annual Asian American film series and a cultural festival. This Good Fortune event celebrates our Asian American culture and Santa Barbara’s wealth of diversity.

The Good Fortune event was so interactive! Attendees not only enjoyed the energetic Taiko drumming by Togen Daiko and dancing by Sinowest, but they also enjoyed calligraphy demonstrations by artist Yin Ping Zheng and sushi, sake sampling, and origami making by Studio Nihon. Following a full evening of silent and live auction and live performances, guests were treated to classic tea tasting by Neil Chuo.

The event committee is to be credited. The group was chaired by Terease Chin, who was assisted by Executive Director Jarrell Jackman, Debby Aceves, Liane Duffy, Keith Mautino, Shuamus Murphy, M. Kay Van Horn, Akido Wade, Helen Wong, Zohe Felici, and Fielici events, along with photographer Clint Weisman.

The Trust continues its commitment to the Asian American history in Santa Barbara County with a three-part summer film series focusing on Chinese and Japanese American communities in a film series on Fridays on July 11, 18 and 25 at 7 p.m. Click here for more information.

Good Fortune is just one of many ways SBTHP seeks to increase community awareness and raise funds to support its mission to preserve, restore, reconstruct and interpret historic sites in Santa Barbara County. Proceeds from this event will help to ensure the future longevity of SBTHP’s ongoing community outreach and efforts to preserve the county’s most significant historic sites.

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is located at 123 E. Canon Perdido. Click here for more information, or call 805.965.0093.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Anne and Michael Towbes represented Montecito Bank & Trust, the Good Fortune benefit’s top sponsor. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)
Anne and Michael Towbes represented Montecito Bank & Trust, the Good Fortune benefit’s top sponsor. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

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