Let's keep cultural events on isle visitors' to-do lists
THE tradition of pa'u riding, where women are adorned with elaborate lei and long flowing prints while riding horseback, dates back to the 1800s, and is just one of many that symbolize Hawaii's Aloha Festivals Parade and other cultural events in the Waikiki and Ala Moana neighborhoods.
As residents who grew up with and participated in these events, we encourage all to come together to ensure these events continue. Issues of funding, neighborhood congestion and facilities to build and maintain parade floats have become vital to their success and growth.
Recently the organizers of the King Kamehameha Floral Parade, the state's oldest and grandest parade, nearly cancelled the event because they could not pay for the city's traffic-control services. This reminds us that now is the time to develop a plan to ensure that our major events and parades continue to benefit Hawaii's cultural traditions, economy and visitor industry workers.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Pa'u Queen Denise Ramento rode her horse in last year's Aloha Festivals Floral Parade.
One important strategy to build Oahu's Japanese and U.S. visitor base -- along with shopping and environmental and historical attractions that are world competitors -- is to offer quality cultural events that appeal to middle- and upper-income families and groups.
Last year Japanese arrivals were at 1.52 million and accounted for 20 percent of all visitors. Japanese visitors continue to spend more than any other; in 2004 they spent $1.95 billion, mostly on Oahu. Our state's second-most popular destination, Maui, received $2.5 billion from U.S. visitors and just $69.4 million from Japan visitors.
Part of the solution to maintain and increase participation in these events is to develop a (private sector) parade and event industry. The primary challenge is to develop an inexpensive staging area which could require up to 50,000 square feet of space to build floats and set up features, adequate volunteer parking and close proximity to Waikiki and downtown. Last year the Honolulu Festival and parade (starting this year on March 10) was responsible for bringing more than 6,000 tourists to Oahu and adding nearly $13 million to our economy. While in its 27th year, the Pan Pacific Festival and Matsuri (parade), in union with the Aloha Festivals' Waikiki Hoolaulea, will bring tens of thousands more.
In addition to the challenges, there are fundamental policy issues on the use of Kalakaua Avenue, determining the pedestrian-friendly use of other Waikiki streets and providing adequate parking for residents and visitors. City Councilman Charles Djou is justified in his concern about the number of events that congest our community and has been a responsible supporter of our state's largest parades and events that benefit residents, hotels and workers.
As state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Hawaii Community Development Authority act to develop solutions for these and new events, residents too must voice concerns, support fair solutions and pledge that indecision will not rain on our parades, economic health and cultural relevance in the world.
Tom Brower, a native of Honolulu, has lived in Waikiki for 24 years. Nelson Fujio is the parade director for the Honolulu Festival and the Pan Pacific Festival.