Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi Hawaii’s
Back yard

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

Mall event salutes
Aloha Festivals

Aloha Festivals doesn't take place until the fall, but next Sunday, Pearlridge Center will salute this colorful annual event, which has become Hawaii's biggest cultural celebration.

'A Showcase of 57 Years'

Place: Uptown, Pearlridge Center
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. next Sunday
Admission: Free
Call: 488-0981 or 589-1771
Web sites: and

"A Showcase of 57 Years" will feature performances by noted island entertainers and hula halau (schools) and a nostalgic exhibit of festival photos, ribbons, posters, brochures, pa'u (equestrian) costumes and other memorabilia that have rarely been seen in public.

Kupuna (elders) who have been a part of the event's Royal Courts, parades, ho'olaule'a and other key events will be on hand to meet and "talk story" with passers-by.

Joining them will be past Ambassadors of Aloha -- longtime festival supporters and volunteers who have championed the mission of Aloha Festivals: "To preserve and perpetuate Hawaiian culture and to celebrate the diverse customs and traditions and the aloha spirit of Hawaii."

The Rev. Abraham Akaka, of Kawaiaha'o Church, entrepreneur Chinn Ho, First Hawaiian Bank President John Bellinger, Hilton Hawaii's Senior Vice President Peter Schall, Bishop Estate trustee Nainoa Thompson, and entertainers Genoa Keawe, the Brothers Cazimero and Danny Kaleikini are among the esteemed islanders who've served as Ambassadors of Aloha.

Recognition also will be given to the 56 finalists in the Aloha Festivals Poster Contest for fourth- and fifth-grade students statewide. Judges singled out these original illustrations based on accuracy (i.e., the spelling of words in the drawing), creativity and interpretation of the 2004 Aloha Festivals theme, "No Na Kamalii" ("For the Children"), which honors Hawaii's youth as tomorrow's leaders and stewards of our cultural and natural resources.

The grand prize winner is Samantha Dacanay, a fourth-grader at Iolani School. Her delightful depiction of a rainbow, honu (green sea turtle), ukulele, birds, flowers and four girls representing different ethnic groups in Hawaii's melting pot will adorn the official children's T-shirts, which will be sold at the 2004 Aloha Festivals events from Sept. 9 through Oct. 16.

Aloha Festivals traces its roots to 1947's Aloha Week, and a parade has always been a part of the pageantry. Shown is an Aloha Airlines float from 1976.

ALOHA FESTIVALS traces its beginnings back to 1947, when a group of Jaycee old-timers launched Aloha Week to preserve and perpetuate the rich history and traditions of Hawaii they felt might be lost as the islands entered a major growth period following World War II.

Aloha Week showcased Hawaii's people, music, dance, sports, language and arts and crafts in a jubilant seven-day celebration on Oahu. Over time the festivities expanded in scope and duration to include nearly 150 events over six weeks on the six major islands. In 1980, to reflect this phenomenal growth, Aloha Week's name was changed to Aloha Festivals.

Lurline Kawainui, special projects manager at Pearlridge Center, is a longtime board member of Aloha Festivals who served as its president in 2000. Explaining how "A Showcase of 57 Years" came about, she says: "I wanted to do more to bring this wonderful celebration to the community. People tend to forget that planning Aloha Festivals is a year-long labor of love, so I thought it was time to honor the individuals who have made the event happen for the past 57 years."

Hundreds of items collected from past festivals will be exhibited at the showcase, many for the first time. The old photos are Kawainui's favorites "because they chronicle the changes that have taken place over the years," she says. "Looking at them is like seeing the Hawaii of my mother's time, my time and now that of my children. Imagine looking at a black-and-white photo of the Floral Parade in the 1940s! It's all part of the wonderful history of Aloha Festivals."

FITTINGLY, "A Showcase of 57 Years" will honor many of the volunteers who have helped build the festival over the decades.

"The event will give them a chance to share their experiences and mana'o (knowledge), which really gives Aloha Festivals its strength and endurance," Kawainui says. "We honor Aloha Festivals as an organization and as a celebration, but it is selfless individuals like these who really make it what it is."

Gloriann Akau, who has been the manager of the Big Island's festivities for 15 years, is one of the dedicated volunteers who pumps aloha into Aloha Festivals. Her two daughters, Kaui Lewis and Nani Sakaguchi, have been queens of the Big Island's Royal Court, and her son, Lenny Pokipala, has been king of the Maui court.

"Aunty Gloriann's ohana is one of many families who have been involved with Aloha Festivals for generations," Kawainui notes. "We are thrilled that her daughters will be among the special guests participating in the showcase."

Kawainui sees Aloha Festivals as a gift to the community, pointing out that admission to many of its statewide events -- including the Royal Court investitures, parades and ho'olaule'a -- is free, thanks to the generosity of thousands of individuals, associations and businesses.

"I always say the best people to sell a product are the ones who live it, love it and share it," Kawainui says.

"It's the same with a 'product' like Aloha Festivals. With the 'Showcase of 57 Years,' we want to say mahalo to the people who organize, implement, sponsor and attend the events. They are the heart of Aloha Festivals and the keepers of our unique culture, history and traditions. Aloha Festivals belongs to all of us."

Leolani Kini, president of this year's Aloha Festivals, adds: "There are other organizations that do a wonderful job of supporting the Hawaiian culture, but not in as grand a style as we do and not with our long, distinguished history. Aloha Festivals makes you truly appreciate and feel proud that you live in Hawaii.

"And at least for a few hours or for a few days, visitors also can get a taste of the beauty, joy and excitement that Aloha Festival brings," Kini says. "It reminds everyone that life is about sharing and caring. Aloha Festivals nurtures the aloha, the Hawaiian spirit of love, in everyone!"

Event highlights

10 a.m.: Poster contest finalists on display to 9 p.m.; repeats Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. next Sunday.

Next Sunday
11 a.m.: Aloha Festivals "Showcase of 57 Years" exhibit on display to 3 p.m.
11:30 a.m. Performance by Hula Ohana O Ilima
12:30 p.m.: Appearances by past members of the Aloha Festivals Royal Court, past Ambassadors of Aloha and more
1:30 p.m.: Performance by Blaine Kia and Ka Waikahe Lani Malie
2:30 p.m.: Performance by Na Leo O Nanaikapono
3:30 p.m.: Performance by Kawika Kahiapo and Martin Pahinui

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.


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