A quarter-million Japanese visitors are expected Saturday at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni for the 35th annual Friendship Day festival.

The city’s single largest one-day event drew a record 265,000 people a year ago, and organizers hope to top that figure.

“If we have the weather we had last year, I more than guarantee we’ll break 265,000,” said Master Sgt. Lesli Coakley, a base spokeswoman.

An air show, to begin at 9 a.m., will feature the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s Blue Impulse, Deep Blue Japanese Aerobatic Team, Skyhawks Canadian Parachute Team, and U.S. and Japanese flight demonstrations. New this year is the AV-8B Harrier, the Marine Corps’ “jump jet” that can take off vertically and horizontally.

The “Rolling Thunder” also returns, a 1,500-strong motorcycle rally culminating in a display of raw power as the bikes each dash down Iwakuni’s runway.

Live entertainment throughout the day includes local and international bands along with various DJs in the Crossroads Amphitheater. The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Band also will appear.

Coakley said the base has taken adequate security precautions.

“We’ve never had an incident and aren’t anticipating any,” she said. “But we are prepared for any event.”

The air station essentially shuts down to traffic until the festival ends and visitors leave the base.

But Coakley says the day presents a special opportunity for base residents.

“The servicemembers and families are always going out in town to meet our Japanese neighbors. This gives us a chance to show them the American side of the house,” she said.

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