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Update: Groundbreaking Jan. 9 at fairgrounds for Japanese-American internees monument

Organizers said there would be a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the Merced Assembly Center Monument honoring those of Japanese ancestry interned there.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan, 9, at the Merced County Fairgrounds, where the center was based.

The memorial will commemorate the interment of 4,669 people of Japanese ancestry incarcerated there from May to September 1942 before being sent to Amache, Colo., for the rest of World War II, according to Robert Taniguchi, one of the organizers.

The memorial will also honor around 120,000 people who were sent to 10 internment camps in remote areas of the West and Arkansas. In 1988 Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, issuing a letter of apology and monetary compensation to all living internees.

Unveiling of the monument will take place Feb. 20. Dedication will begin at 3 p.m. at the fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, in Merced. It’s open to the public. In case of bad weather, a large tent will provide shelter for those who attend.

The focal point of the monument will be a sculpture of a small girl sitting on top of eight stacked suitcases and bags. There will also be five benches, five storyboards and a wall of names listing the internees.

A gala dinner will follow at the Pavilion Building located near the monument. Social hour begins at 4:30 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. and a program at 6:45 p.m.

Keynote speaker will be John Tateishi, leader of the Redress Movement which led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Taniguchi said a documentary of the project is being made, and a 12- to 15-minute preview will also be part of the program. Cost is $40 a person for the dinner and is also open to the public.

For more information, contact Janet Fujimoto at (209) 723-8588 or