Hula festival will go on despite gap in funding


POSTED: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Despite a small deficit, the 18th annual World Hula Invitational Festival is going on this week with a little help from its friends.

Funds from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Na Lei Aloha Foundation and other donors helped organizer Paulie Kealealani Jennings make up most of the festival's $40,000 shortfall.

“;I've still got to raise about $5,000, but hopefully we'll make that up through ticket sales,”; Jennings said. “;We are very grateful to our sponsors that have allowed us the opportunity to continue holding this event in Hawaii.”;

The festival, launched in 1991, has helped students from at least 23 countries and 15 mainland states to return to the source of hula, Jennings said. It has sparked import and export business deals and bolstered state tourism revenue.

“;Since its inception, E Hoi Mai i ka Piko Hula has been an important milestone for Hawaiian culture,”; said Nona Beamer, a founding member of the festival. “;Not only is it a rich cultural source for worldwide awareness, it has continued over the past years to be an extremely educational event.”;

But like many other festivals and events worldwide, the event was in danger earlier this year when the troubled economy resulted in lost sponsorships and funding, Jennings said. Hard work on the part of event organizers saved the event, but now they need the local community to show their support and appreciation by buying tickets, she said.

“;It's going to be a great show,”; Jennings said.

Hundreds of dancers arrived this week from Japan, Guam, New York City and India to participate alongside dancers from Hawaii in the event's hula workshops and to perform in the competition, which runs from Thursday to Saturday at the Waikiki Shell, she said. After the show, most will travel throughout Hawaii to learn more about the culture, Jennings said.

“;The Hawaiian culture is what defines us as a destination, and it is our responsibility as a community to continue to honor and perpetuate these traditions,”; said Kelii Wilson, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner.

The event will emphasize the role of island children as keiki ambassadors of aloha. Schoolchildren from Maryknoll Schools, Palisades Elementary, Waldorf Schools and James Campbell High School, among others, will perform in unison on Saturday for the visiting halau from around the world.

“;With today's economic downturn, it is a costly and tremendous sacrifice for these halau to come to Hawaii in support of hula, and we are doing more to show our appreciation and making this a more personal and memorable experience for our visitors,”; Jennings said.

At the event, plenty of local food favorites will be available, and Hawaiian vendors will sell their wares.

“;You can even have a drink and a massage while you watch the event,”; Jennings said.

Doors open at 4 p.m. with the show starting at 4:30 p.m. Tickets, which are available at the door and through Ticketmaster, range in price from $10 on the lawn to $35. Call (877) 750-4400 to charge by phone. Group discounts are available.

For more information, call 486-3185 or visit http://www.Worldhula.com.