A sweltering summer sky failed to deter a spirited celebration of Japanese culture and traditions Saturday afternoon on Jesup Green.

The event was the 19th annual Bon Odori Festival organized by the Japan Society of Fairfield County.

Vernon Beck, president of the society, joined others in wearing a traditional Japanese kimono for the occasion, which embodies the group's mission to promote knowledge and understanding between Japanese and Americans.

The Taiko drum group from the University of Connecticut performed traditional Japanese music, which echoed throughout downtown. The enthusiastic audience, spread out over the green, was asked to join in a celebratory dance.

Bon is a Japanese Buddhist-Confucian traditional festival with roots that go back 1400 years. In Japan, people return to their ancestral homes for a festival that can last a week. Bon Odori is the traditional dance of the festival. It is a celebration of the influence of ancestors. During the festival spirits return to ancestral homes and household altars.

Speakers at the event included the cultural attache from the Japanese consulate in New York, Masakazu Kigure, and Yoshito Yamashita, the deputy director of the Japan Information Center in New York City.