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Time to get funky, Yoshida-style

Sauce mogul and wife throw big concert to raise funds to fight cancer


Junki Yoshida, teriyaki sauce creator and multimillionaire founder and chief executive officer of the Yoshida Group conglomerate, says he has been to a lot of nonprofit galas.

Every one, the Troutdale resident says, insists that its attendees pay elitist entry fees, up to $200. Worse, everyone is dressed “like monkeys” in formal attire, tuxedos and the like, and sitting around, he says.

Junki, known for his humor and eccentric tendencies, wanted something different for his East County fundraiser, the Artful Giving Blanket Concert, to benefit cancer research and sick children.

“Why dress up and pay so much money to help different causes?” he says.

Cancer is a disease that affects everyone, and anybody should be able to afford to support events that help find a cure, he says.

For a fourth year in a row, Junki and his wife, Linda, will open up their 15-acre estate on the south bank of the Sandy River, 29330 S.E. Stark St., for an all-day concert from noon to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 27. This year’s theme is “Time to get Funky!”

“People can come dance and listen to music,” says Junki, who wore a cowboy hat, purple T-shirt and jeans at last year’s concert.

General admission is $25 for tickets purchased online or $35 at the gate. Premier admission, which includes food and drink tokens, is $50. Full VIP treatment is $100. To purchase tickets in advance and to find out about event parking, go to soulfulgiving.org.

Proceeds benefit Providence Cancer Research and Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

But just because a suit and tie are not required doesn’t mean this fundraising party is anything less than extravagant.

The concert is at the Yoshida Estate, perched above the Sandy River and shaded by tall fir trees, a mix of Japanese oasis and rose gardens.

Volunteer support

Yoshida and his wife have donated money to cancer research organizations for many years.

Not to sound cocky, says Junki, rumored to be the only man in Oregon driving a new $375,000 Lexus LFA, but when you have a large amount of disposable income, donating money to cancer research is easy.

So instead of just giving money to people, he and his wife decided to do it “breaking a sweat,” he says. The event was born.

It takes a year to plan the Artful Giving concert and four days to set it up, from installing porta-potties to putting up bands in hotels.

“It’s like a circus came to town and all the tents are going up,” says Linda Yoshida, president of the Soulful Giving Foundation, the board responsible for organizing the Artful Giving Blanket Concert.

Once inside the gates, people can lay out blankets on the lawn and listen to music, feast on the variety of food offered or wander the grounds freely.

The cool thing about the Yoshidas’ party is nearly everything is donated in the name of fighting cancer.

“There is very, very little we pay for,” says Junki, whose circle of friends include most of the politicians who run the state of Oregon, such as Gov. John Kitzhaber and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

To avoid expensive payrolls, it is run entirely by volunteers, 180 of them.

Bands, many affected by cancer in some way, either have offered to play for free or at a lower rate.

This year, to involve a younger audience (21 year of age and older), the concert is headlining more hip, national acts such as Ivan Nevill’s Dumpstaphunk, Mingo Fishtrap and Monophonics. Linda Hornbuckle, Lisa Mann, Peter Dammann and D.K. Stewart also will perform.

Four shuttle buses will tote people every five minutes from Mt. Hood Community College, which has donated its parking lot for the event. For $1, people can ride the Soul Bus, which leaves every 40 minutes from downtown Portland’s Crown Plaza Hotel and rallies riders with rounds of beer and a live band all the way to the Yoshida Estate.

Fifteen restaurants ranging from Paragon to Morton’s Steakhouse to Salty’s and Bumper’s Bar and Grill have signed up to donate food for the event, and 31 local vendors and artists also will be on the grounds.

Duck Pond Winery will bring the wine, and Widmer Brothers Brewing is bringing the beer.

‘Positive revenge

Big sponsors — Pacific Seafood, Fred Meyer, US Bank, Pamplin Media Group, Lexus, Fox News and Portland General Electric — have helped secure the event’s cause for the past three years.

Junki Yoshida calls the partnership of donors “amazing.”

The Yoshidas have been touched by cancer.

“So many times people feel they have to join a cause because it directly impacted their own children,” says Linda Yoshida, who in her free time writes romance suspense novels under her grandmother’s name.

And while none of their three daughters has experienced major illnesses or health problems, Linda says, that doesn’t mean the couple is not directly affected by the life-threatening disease, which kills almost 1,600 Americans each day.

“I lost too many employees and friends to cancer, especially in the last five years,” Junki says.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 1.6 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2013.

Junki says fighting the cancer that killed his friends is a “positive revenge.” And so the Soulful Giving Foundation was born, and from it the Artful Giving Blanket Concert.

“We are proud of the fact that we’ve generated over $2 million on this property, bringing people to raise money for different causes,” Linda says.

Gov. Kitzhaber proclaimed July 27, the day of the Yoshidas’ fundraiser, Children’s Cancer Awareness Day. Last year, the event raised $160,000 for cancer research. This year, the goal is $200,000.