Romance Returns

The springtime Hawaii Romance Festival will share the love with visitors

By: Marty Wentzel

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The Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii
will open the festival.
Island promoters like to call Hawaii the romance capital of the world, so it only follows that someone would create a festival in honor of that distinction. The Hawaii Romance Festival, scheduled for May 2-11, promises a sentimental journey through star-studded performances, dreamy dinners, live music for listening and dancing, and the screening of an emotional film classic.

Launched last year as Return to Romance, the 2008 festival’s new name represents its broader reach, according to founding partner Allen Sviridoff. Over 10,000 people attended last year’s festivities, with some 30,000 estimated for the upcoming jamboree.

“We have grown into the name Hawaii Romance Festival to allow music to be coupled with books, film, food and the beauty of Hawaii, creating the most comprehensive celebration possible,” Sviridoff said.

The 2008 event also serves as the official introduction of the Hawaii Romance Center, a multi-faceted Oahu attraction opening within the next decade. Plans call for a facility featuring a restaurant, theater with a live romantic-themed production, a gallery displaying festival mementos and what Sviridoff called, “the world’s greatest Tunnel of Love ride.” An outdoor venue at the center will eventually serve as the primary host for the Hawaii Romance Festival each year. The Hawaii Romance Center will also showcase books, TV shows, chefs and films that have been inducted for their works related to romance, he said. Clients will find star appeal at the event as well, which Sviridoff likened to the Cannes Film Festival.

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Smokey Robinson will perform
at Back to Romance.
“It will be attended by an international high-profile group of participants and audiences, garnering worldwide press coverage and the excitement of a premier each year,” he said. “The 2008 event is growing into a must-see celebration, determining May as the month of romance in Hawaii.”

The Hawaii Romance Festival starts out with lively opening ceremonies at Iolani Palace on May 2, presided over by the spirited Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii. Gathered in front of Honolulu’s historic royal residence, the audience gets a free preview of the week’s events, highlighted by musical snippets by various artists.

On May 3, a dinner/dance called The Food, Wine and Music of Romance applauds the talents of four James Beard Award-winning chefs, including Hawaii’s own Alan Wong. Clients attending the event can enjoy wine pairings, appearances by celebrity hosts and dancing to music by the orchestra and guest artists. For International Music Night (May 4), headliners from around the globe gather on stage at the Waikiki Shell, an inspiring outdoor setting flanked by Diamond Head.

The festival celebrates the 70th anniversary of “Gone With the Wind” with a special screening in wide-screen format (May 5). Ann Rutherford, who portrayed Scarlett’s younger sister, Careen, in the movie, will take part in a Q&A session following the showing. On May 6, the Hawaii Romance Center inducts its first honorees during a lavish dinner.

“Destined to become the Oscars of Romance, the dinner will benefit children’s charities in Hawaii,” said Sviridoff.

On May 7 and 8, Nick and Nina Clooney, George Clooney’s parents, will host a pair of Broadway-style concerts called The Most Romantic Songs Ever Written, Part 2. The concerts are a continuation of the tradition that began last year, when a panel of 150 industry specialists voted on love-inspired tunes with the ultimate staying power. At each festival, 20 songs from that list will be presented at the Hawaii Theatre in downtown Honolulu.

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Gladys Knight will perform at Back to Romance.
The festival kicks off May 9 with Back to Romance, a Waikiki Shell extravaganza featuring Motown artist and Smokey Robinson. At the Rhythm of Romance (May 10), R&B legend Gladys Knight and soul singer Aaron Neville join other renowned music-makers for melodies at Honolulu’s Neal Blaisdell Arena. Closing the festival on May 11 is Pink Day at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure with a dinner, fashion show and superstar concert.

Sviridoff hopes that clients attending this year’s Hawaii Romance Festival will want to come back to Oahu year after year for romance and rejuvenation through music, food, movies, books or the destination itself.

“Romance can be as intimate as an elegant dinner for two, a walk on the beach or a dual massage,” he said, “and as grand as being serenaded under the stars by some of the world’s most incredible singers.”

There is nowhere else on earth better suited for such a festival,” he added. “Hawaii is quiet, Hawaii is gentle, Hawaii is fragrant, Hawaii is exciting, Hawaii is romance.”


Hawaii Romance Festival

Dates: May 2-11
Individual event ticket prices: From $25-$150 per person (higher for charity events).