When it comes to agriculture, Hawaii has a sweet past. In the
industry’s heyday, sugar reigned as the major contributor to
Hawaii’s ag picture. While the era has ended, it has left much to
celebrate especially for its role in creating Hawaii’s ethnic
Set for Saturday, Aug. 6, the Third Annual Maui Sugar Plantation
Festival will highlight the multiple cultures of early immigrants
who came from around the globe to work on Hawaii’s sugar
plantations. Workers arrived from China, the South Seas, Portugal,
Puerto Rico, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Spain, Russia, Germany
and Scandinavia from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. They
practiced and shared the customs and traditions of their homelands,
building the unique multi-ethnic heritage and lifestyle enjoyed by
Hawaii’s residents and visitors today.
“The object of holding the Maui Sugar Plantation Festival is to
enable people to experience and appreciate our multicultural
heritage that arose from life on the old plantations,” explained
Paula Loomis, assistant director of the Alexander & Baldwin
Sugar Museum, which is the sponsoring organization of the
Festival-goers can sample an assortment of ethnic foods, such as
hearty Portuguese bean soup and traditional malassadas, Hawaiian
lau lau, Korean kim chee and chicken, Chinese chow fun, the
Japanese teriyaki beef plate, the Filipino favorite of pancit, as
well as Puerto Rican gandule rice and pasteles.
During the plantation era, workers in the field would share
their mid-day meals with each other, combining dishes of their
different ethnic backgrounds. This was the origin of the popular
“mixed plate” found in Island cuisine today.
The Maui Sugar Plantation Festival presents a free program of
authentic multicultural music and dances, performed by local groups
and organizations. Many of these individuals are ancestors of those
who lived and worked on the plantations. They continue to carry on
the cultural traditions handed down to them through their
The Third Annual Maui Sugar Plantation Festival will build upon
the two previous successful Festival years, according to Loomis.
Set from 10 a.m.2 p.m., the outdoor festival is free.
The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum will be open for
touring, with reduced rates of $1 per person. Its most valuable
artifact on display that day will be the fully restored “Claus
Spreckels” steam locomotive that was in the service of Kahului
railroad from 1882 - 1929. Hawaii’s oldest restored steam
locomotive, the “Claus” rarely makes a public appearance.
Among the most popular of the 1,800-square-foot museum’s six
major exhibit rooms is the Mill Room. Here, visitors can get into
several interactive displays, including a 1915 locomotive bell, a
"Cuban" sugar mill and an impressive working scale model of
cane-crushing machinery. A narrative with special lighting and
sound effects accompanies the operation of the model.
Outdoor exhibits offer a close-up look at some of the intriguing
equipment and items used by sugar plantations and plantation
workers, such as a Cleveland Model J36 trench digger, an outdoor
Portuguese oven built in the 1920s and a cane grab large enough for
a child to walk under without stooping.