[ OUR OPINION ]
HAWAII'S plantation past is too significant to allow a 10-year-old institution that chronicles that period of island history to shut down. The Hawaii Plantation Village in Waipahu should receive the full support of the tourism industry and the public.
Museum that recalls
history is worth saving
Dwindling attendance and decreased funds threaten the future of the cultural village in Waipahu.
With the historic and cultural tourism market growing, the industry and organizations like the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Hawaii Tourism Authority should lend a hand in promoting the museum.
The village depicts the lifestyle during the early 1900s of the 400,000 immigrants who came to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations. About 30 original and replicated homes and buildings, spread across 50 acres, contain artifacts of clothing, tools, household items and other material, showing how the different ethnic groups lived. The museum has lost financial support from the state, receiving only $13,000 of the more than $100,000 it was granted previously. It has cut its staff from about 10 workers to seven.
Other cultural establishments, such as the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, are suffering similar financial hardships. The state Legislature, primarily through Sen. Brian Taniguchi, has seen fit to lend aid to the JCCH through an $8 million bond authorization, but that plan met opposition from Governor Cayetano and others because it placed too much of a burden on taxpayers. Meanwhile, the newly opened Filipino Community Center may be setting the model for such cultural endeavors by fashioning a business plan to rent space to raise income for the center's operations.
The village attracts about 24,000 children a year, primarily through school and educational programs. Attendance has decreased to fewer than 100 people a month, mostly because the museum has not marketed itself well to tourists. Besides about two Elderhostel groups each month, it draws no tour bus traffic.
That's unfortunate because culture and history is an expanding segment of the tourism trade. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, more than half of visitors to Hawaii seek cultural and historic experiences. Vacationers, particularly those with more money to spend, are interested in more than scenic vistas and restaurants. Attractions like the plantation village offer tourists insight into Hawaii's diverse cultural heritage, adding another component to the usual sun and surf.
The state's tourism industry is constantly on the lookout for something different to lure visitors. The village can be one of them. Hawaii and tourism officials should undertake a coordinated effort to show off this valuable asset. It will be a shame if the village is forced to close its doors.
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ahead of the pack
The big heart of Dr. Hing Hua "Hunky" Chun ran out June 12 when lung cancer took him from us. He was 70. Hunky was the leader of the "Hunky Bunch," his family of runners that included his wife, Connie, and their six children. I went through the public school system and the University of Hawaii with Hunky and he was my physician until lung cancer forced him to stop practicing.
Hunky was a doctor who made house calls and took care of many lower-income patients in his Chinatown practice. He was so smart in school that he graduated from Roosevelt High in 1948, two years ahead of what otherwise would have been his class. He struggled on the RHS track team because he was younger than his competitors, but all that changed in later years when he and family members won numerous running trophies.
Hunky completed every Honolulu marathon, all 28 of them, before his illness last year. His three sons -- Jerold, Hingson and Daven -- followed in his footsteps as he wished and became doctors. He leaves big shoes for them to fill.
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