CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Made in Hawaii Festival opens today at Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. Lauren An had a lot of bags to choose from at the Denise Tjarks booth at the Made in Hawaii show last August.
Made in Hawaii still a big draw
The 2008 Made in Hawaii Festival, which showcases locally grown and handcrafted goods, is expected to bring more than 35,000 attendees to the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and Arena when it debuts today.
Made in Hawaii Festival
» Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and tomorrow; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
» Place: Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and Arena
» Admission: $3; free for children 6 and younger
» Call: 533-1292 or visit www.madeinhawaiifestival.com
Also, more than 420 vendors vied for a spot at the three-day festival this year, including 70 from neighbor isles that include Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island.
Some vendors from Maui, such as Surfing Goat Dairy, were able to make it to this year's festival on the Superferry.
Owner Thomas Kafsack said he was loading his truck with about 500 pounds of award-winning gourmet goat cheese from Upcountry Maui and getting on to the Superferry for this year's festival.
Last year, the dairy had reserved a booth, but was unable to make its shipment in time due to Hurricane Flossie.
A few Maui vendors used the Superferry this year, according to Amy Hammond of Special Events Hawaii, which is marketing the festival. For others, Hawaiian Airlines continues to offer vendors a special cargo freight rate for the festival.
"We're very optimistic," said Hammond. "Everyone seems pretty enthusiastic, since this is a cornerstone of their business. They're hoping this will be a good shot in the arm."
Many of the businesses have felt costs go up because of gas, she said, and some have seen business drop off a little bit.
The festival, sponsored by the Hawaii Food Industry Association and First Hawaiian Bank, is an opportunity for many local small businesses to market their products to new customers and wholesale buyers.
Last year's festival brought vendors $1.5 million in immediate sales, and about $10 million in residual sales the following 12 months. This year's festival is expected to do the same.
Items for sale range from custom jewelry to art, cooking spices, lomi sticks, apparel, handmade quilts, soaps, fish jerky and baked goods.
The theme for this year's festival is "Buy Hawaii, For Hawaii."
This year, the festival is also partnering with the U.S. Postal Service for the convenience of customers.
While about a third of the exhibitors are returning from last year, this year's festival brought 80 new ones.
Return vendors include favorites such as the Kanemitsu Bakery from Molokai, Ali'i Kula Lavender from Maui, Rubber Stamp Plantation and the Soap Box of Oahu.
Newcomers this year include La Bang, which offers recycled urban wear and handbags from Lanai; Fauna Collection, which showcases designer apparel for pets; and Alohi Mana'o, which sells washi paper lamps and stationery.