Festival Time

Waikiki comes alive during the annual Aloha Festivals

By: Marty Wentzel

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Performers during the Aloha Festivals
Waikiki Hoolaulea.
The theme of this year’s Aloha Festivals is Ke Kahu Lani O Hawaii (Hawaii’s Beloved Royal Playgrounds), so it seems only fitting that clients enjoy the celebration in the most famous playground in the island chain: Waikiki.

Aloha Festivals officials have coined the term “playground” to represent the special places that Hawaii’s ancient alii (royalty) went to rejuvenate their bodies, hearts and minds. Some headed down to the sea or up to the mountains, while others sought solace through outdoor sports and amusement. Major events in ancient history took place in nature, whether by fishponds and streams, at beaches and shores or in picturesque parks and secluded hideaways.

Waikiki has long stood as a playground with particular power. From 800-1200 AD, Polynesian settlers discovered that Waikiki’s rich wetlands were perfect for farming and agriculture. In 1350, when Mailikukahi became king of Oahu, he established the seat of government in Waikiki. For generations, the monarchy coveted Waikiki as a place for recreation and retreat, as appealing for watersports as it was for entertaining. In more recent history, the opening of the Moana (1901) and Royal Hawaiian (1927) hotels established Waikiki as a modern-day mecca for the rich and famous.

Over the years, Waikiki has maintained its status as a playground, drawing not only the upper class but all types of travelers. Tourism officials have kept the destination on the map through a variety of initiatives, presenting such Waikiki events as Sunset on the Beach, with its outdoor movies; hula and torch lighting ceremonies by the sea; and live entertainment under the stars. Recent projects, such as Waikiki Beach Walk and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center renovation, will protect Waikiki’s status as the Pacific’s premier playground.

While your clients can enjoy the Aloha Festivals celebration from one end of the islands to the other, tell them they can’t go wrong if they decide to experience it in Waikiki, a time-honored center of relaxation and recreation. Following are a few highlights on the festival calendar:

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Hula girls perform in the Aloha Festivals
Floral Parade.
Sept. 15: Aloha Festivals is partnering with the U.S. Air Force as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. At 2:30 p.m., residents and visitors will be treated to a performance by the Thunderbirds as they soar over Waikiki, part of a week of festivities honoring the Air Force’s birthday.

Sept. 21: This year marks the 55th anniversary of Aloha Festivals’ Waikiki Hoolauea, Hawaii’s largest block party. Thousands of revelers take to the streets for a night of dancing and entertainment. Adding to the fun are hula performances, local food and international cuisine and Hawaiian arts and crafts. The event runs from 7-10:30 p.m. on Kalakaua Ave., which is closed to vehicular traffic from Lewers St. to Kapahulu Ave.

Sept. 22: Hip-swaying dancers from all over the world gather on Waikiki Beach at 3 p.m. for what they hope will be the longest hula in history. The Guinness World Record of 3,500 dancers was set there in 1996.

“We are hoping not just to improve on the former record, but to create a new world record,” said Aloha Festivals spokesperson Sukil Suh. “We think we can raise the number to 5,500 dancers.”


Dating back to the 1940s, the Aloha Festivals
encompass hundreds of events on six islands. It’s funded each year through the sale of festival ribbons ($5), merchandise, corporate and private donations, grants from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and support from the state’s counties. Visit the Aloha Festivals Web site for the most current schedule of events.