More locals and tourists should enjoy hula contest
THE 33rd annual King Kamehameha Hula Competition, held June 23 and 24 at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center Arena, was one of the best ever, yet it received little publicity. There were only a few mentions in listings of upcoming events and a radio spot or two provided by the organizers. But no pictures after the fact; not even a list of winners! This is an event that should not be ignored by the local media, but ignored it has been for years.
There were thousands of unoccupied seats in the arena, and most local residents and visitors missed one of the best Hawaiian cultural events of the year. Some of the finest dancers in the world performed at their best in this Honolulu event. It was every bit as good as the Merrie Monarch Festival, which is given hundreds of column inches of copy and pictures in press coverage.
Although we are from Encino, Calif., we are no strangers to these islands. We spend in excess of five weeks a year here and have done so for more than 20 years. We have ohana in these islands as well. From our first exposure to the hula competition more than a decade ago, we have been very interested in this event. We have come to Oahu each June to attend it, and for the past several years our family has underwritten the Award of Distinction presented at the competition to honor notable kapuna who have by their exemplary lives, enriched and perpetuated the Hawaiian culture. This year, our recipient, selected for his multifaceted contributions to Hawaiian music, was the talented and gracious Bill Kaiwa, "The Boy from Laupahoehoe."
We would like to see every seat in that arena filled for this magnificent event. We'd like to see more local people enjoying this event. We'd like to see visitors told about it so they, too, might enjoy some authentic, traditional Hawaiian culture, which, we respectfully suggest, is harder and harder to find each time we return to these islands. It is an experience that should not be missed.
TO BEGIN with, we hope the concierges of various hotels will see the annual event as a must-see for their guests and assist those guests in making arrangements to attend. Hotels could even secure the tickets for guests and perhaps even provide transportation. After one successful year, we believe that returning guests would demand that hotels help them get tickets.
It could easily be the biggest and best-attended hula event in Hawaii, if not the world. It is held in Honolulu, which has a larger population base, more hotel rooms and a larger tourist head count. That should mean more people in the audience. It is held in the spacious, air-conditioned Blaisdell Arena, which seats a lot more than the sites of other similar events, making it an easy sell. It never rains in the Blaisdell Arena, and the lighting is constant, day and night!
THE KING Kamehameha Hula Competition attracts some of the best halau in Hawaii, as well as from the mainland and Japan. Just look at the kumu hula whose dancers and chanters took honors this year, including (to name but a few) Mapuana de Silva, O'Brian Eselu, Manu Boyd, Kealii Reichel, Leimomi Ho and Michael Pili Pang.
Bearing in mind the great importance of perpetuating Hawaiian culture in all of its forms but especially in dance, chant and mele, and bolstering and nurturing cultural pride, it is incumbent on those who can give this event a proper and substantial spotlight in the media and among locals and tourists alike to do so.
Dave and Rocky Baum live in Encino, Calif.