Keeping Molokai's Datebook

New company seeks to promote the Friendly Isle by coordinating its many events

By: Marty Wentzel

KAUNAKAKAI, Molokai A new company hopes to make it easier for Western agents to promote travel to Molokai by coordinating visitor-friendly events on the island.

Called, the business was founded by Maria Holmes, who served as the Molokai Visitors Association director from 1999 to 2002. “Our long-range goal is to have a major event on Molokai every month,” said Holmes. “This will not only stimulate the economy and provide jobs for our residents, but it will help the visitor industry and travel agents bring people to Molokai.”

Holmes started the company in September 2002 with her partners, Zhantelle Dudoit and Keoki Pescaia. “Prior to working at MVA, I was recreation resource manager at Molokai Ranch,” said Holmes. “Zhan was the guest services manager there, and Keoki worked in the operations department, so we collaborated closely on the ranch’s activities, concerts, events, rodeos and so on.

“We saw a need for event coordination on the island, and it seemed like a natural for the three of us to pool our talents,” said Holmes. The Web site serves as a central source of information for all the events taking place on the island, so that dates don’t overlap, she said. The group coordinates such on-island happenings as community gatherings and business promotions; but more importantly for travel agents, it focuses on events that visitors can participate in. One such event, for instance, is the Hawaii Performing Arts competition on Nov. 29, in the Maunaloa town concert park. This daylong celebration features performances by ukulele players, falsetto singers, slack-key guitarists, hula dancers and practitioners of other traditional Hawaiian arts.

“We’re hoping to make it an annual event,” said Holmes, who has been talking with Molokai Ranch officials about creating air-and-room packages that would be timed with the event.

Another yearly event open to tourists is Ka Molokai Makahiki Festival, held on the third Saturday of January. This free celebration honors the end of the Hawaiian makahiki (harvest) by reviving its tradition of sporting competitions between villages. In the morning, schoolchildren compete against each other in ancient Hawaiian games, and later adults join in the fun. An afternoon hoolaulea (outdoor party) features live entertainment, food, lectures and arts and crafts. “This is the sort of program that can provide visitors with a unique perspective on Molokai, our people and our culture,” said Holmes.

For the rest of 2003, clients can time their visit to Molokai with events such as the American Cancer Society Relay for Life (July 18-19); Molokai-to-Oahu Paddleboard Race (July 27); Molokai Aloha Festivals (Sept. 19-27); Men’s and Women’s Molokai-to-Oahu outrigger canoe races (Sept. 28 and Oct. 12); Friendly Isle Ultra-Marathon (Nov. 1); and Festival of Lights in Kaunakakai (Dec. 13). Along with on-island programs, promotes the island by coordinating events throughout Hawaii. Local artists, performers and business people travel as a group to spread the word about the island at events such as Molokai Comes to Ward Warehouse on Oahu, Molokai Comes to Lahaina Cannery Mall on Maui, and Molokai Comes to Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center on Maui.

808-660-0004; www.