More than 1,000 people braved the stifling heat on Saturday and Sunday to enjoy the Lodi Buddhist Church's annual Obon Odori Festival in and outside the church on Stockton Street.
Church President Corey Okazaki said that the festival, held the last weekend of June each year, brings together families who have moved away and educates non-Buddhists about Japanese-American culture and the Buddhist faith.
Katsuya Kusunoki, minister of the Lodi church, attended his first Obon festival in the United States. He said he enjoys that it is open to the public, unlike in his native Japan, which limits attendance to members of the church.
Kusunoki gave an informal tour of the church to a group of non-Buddhists and gave a 45-minute talk about Buddhism.
The two-day festival included cultural displays and demonstrations, including Japanese food, bingo, Obon dancing, raffles, Japanese music and dancing, a tea ceremony and martial arts.
"I thought it was really nice," Stockton resident Marlena Gates said. "The food was really, really good."
Gates' mother, Patrice Gates, of Lodi, joined the Buddhist church about a year ago due to the spirituality the church presents.
"It's sort of like I gradually realized I had always been a Buddhist," Patrice Gates said. "I was an agnostic most of my life."
The Lodi Buddhist church has declined in membership because it is an older congregation, church leaders say. Some members leave Lodi for schools and careers, while others marry a Christian and stop attending the Buddhist church. Okazaki said.