4,700 expected at isle gala


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

More than 4,700 visitors will take part in next week's annual Honolulu Festival, an expected $10 million in visitor spending for the state's recovering tourism industry.

That's a few hundred less than the typical 5,000-strong dancers, artisans and singers who participate in the March weekend festivities.

“;This year, because of the economy, it was a little bit soft for all the participants,”; said Tatsuo Watanabe, treasurer of the nonprofit Honolulu Festival Foundation. Yesterday the group announced the festival at a press conference at Waikiki Beach Walk.

He added that participation is still good and that the slowly recovering tourism industry would get a shot in the arm from the infusion of participants. More than 120 performing groups will be coming to the March 13-14 event, mostly from Japan but also China, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and Canada.

The festival, open to the public and in its 16th year, was started by the Japan Travel Bureau in 1995 but has been operated since 2000 by the Honolulu Festival Foundation.





        Information on the Honolulu Festival

» When: March 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March 14, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


» Where: Hawai'i Convention Center, Ala Moana Center, Waikiki Beach Walk, Waikiki Shopping Plaza, Kalakaua Avenue


» Information: or 926-2424


This year's theme is “;Discovery Through Tradition.”; The Hawai'i Convention Center will feature a number of activities, including:

» Ennichi Corner, hands-on activities inspired by the traditional Japanese Saint's Day festival.

» Anime Corner, a preview to the state's own Kawaii Kon anime convention in April, with costumes, illustrator workshops and an appearance by Japanese voice actress Haruko “;Halko”; Momoi.

» Movie showings featuring “;Hula Girls,”; winner of eight Japanese Academy Awards in 2007, and “;Departures,”; which won Best Foreign Language Movie in the 2009 Academy Awards.

» A band and choral festival featuring musicians and chorus groups from Hawaii, the mainland and Canada.

There also will be performances from the Alaska Native Heritage Center Dancers and the Descendance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Theatre.

The event ends March 14 with its Grand Parade along Kalakaua Avenue, starting at 4:30 p.m., and will feature the popular Daijayama, a 20-foot-tall, fire-spitting dragon float.

Watanabe said the festival began as a Japan-Hawaii-centric event but expanded earlier in the century to include regions from along and within the Pacific Rim.

“;It eventually got to a point where we invite people from mainland U.S., Canada, Australia,”; he said. “;They are beginning to be regulars of our event.”;

The festival is a “;destination”; event, designed to involve the city and the entire visitor industry, as opposed to an isolated “;resort”; event on a single property, said Mike McCartney, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“;Experiences like the Honolulu Festival will help us define who we are as a destination,”; McCartney said.

“;There's value added to the visitor when they interact with the local community. You can't just measure it in dollar amounts. The experience is priceless.”;