SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sasebo’s Nimitz Park will be transformed from ball fields and running tracks to ski slopes and sleigh bells as the base prepares for its annual holiday event.

“Winter Wonderland” is this year’s theme at Sasebo Naval Base’s annual park festival. The wonderland is set to open Dec. 5 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., said Shawn Ally, event coordinator and manager of Sasebo’s Liberty program for single sailors.

“We’re overseas and Japan doesn’t do Christmas like we do,” he said. “We’re trying to bring that piece of America to sailors and their families.”

The festival will be packed with vendors, games and food and drink booths, Ally said. A stage for live entertainment will be set up, said John Burnette, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation intern who’s serving as festival coordinator.

Live shows are to include a performance by the base’s high school band, an appearance from Santa Claus, a traditional Japanese sword dance and music by the Greater Harvest Church.

The festival also marks the first illumination of holiday lights and decorations throughout the park. This year, Ally said, base commander Capt. Michael L. James will flip the switch to illuminate the ornaments. The lights and decorations will stay lit throughout the holiday season.

Organizers said they’re expecting roughly 600 viewers. The event is open to the Japanese public as well, Ally said, but no vehicles will be allowed to enter and bags are subject to examination.

Park entry will be free — as will cookies and hot chocolate at the base’s Harbor View Club during the festival, Ally said. However, tickets must be purchased in advance to take part in activities. Pre-event ticket packs are available for $3, Ally said. The tickets are good for games and drinks, as well as a photo with Santa. Ally said pre-purchased tickets cost half of what they’ll cost the day of the event and are available at the main base from the Travel and Tours office and Hario Housing Facility’s Community Center.

Ally said some events have been added solely to accommodate unaccompanied servicemembers, including a jousting match. “Basically, you have two pillars they get on and two padded jousting sticks,” he said. The idea: The last man standing wins.

“They just beat each other,” Burnette said. “They seem to really enjoy it.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now