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The largest cultural celebration in Hawaii, the 2004 festival
will be highlighted by colorful activities reflecting island
heritage and the spirit of keiki (children). More than 1 million
visitors and residents are expected to join the fun, which includes
street parties, concerts, crafts fairs and parades.
According to Leolani Kini, president of Aloha Festivals, this
year’s keiki theme will play out with all the excitement that
children bring to an occasion.
“We’ve held an art poster contest asking fourth- and
fifth-graders statewide to interpret what ‘No Na Kamali`i’ means to
them,” Kini explained. “The winner will ride in the parade through
Waikiki. We’re also finalizing other fun things like a keiki
hoolaulea [celebration] and spelling bee.”
While certain events are held statewide, others are unique to a
particular island. Among the most unusual is the Big Island’s Ms.
Aloha Nui Contest, a one-of-a-kind beauty pageant honoring the
large stature of island women. To be eligible, contestants are
required to tip the scale in excess of 200 pounds.
On the Big Island, Maui and Oahu, Hawaii’s finest falsettos
gather to belt out their best high-register notes. This vocal art
form dates back to a time when Hawaiian women were forbidden to
sing publicly. Modern performers throw their voices into the upper
registers of the musical scale, with their art of Hawaii
storytelling as a bonus.
Naturally, culinary events are among the favorites. On the Big
Island, the Sam Choy Poke Contest serves up proof of that
popularity and then some. Since 1992, this tribute to “Hawaii’s
Soul Food” has grown from a one-tent event in Waimea Town to a huge
extravaganza at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.
Poke (po-keh) is a Hawaiian word meaning to slice or cut, and
poke as a food is bite-sized pieces of raw, fresh fish mixed with
seaweed, kukui nut relish and other seasonings. Up to 90 amateur
and career chefs will compete for $15,000 in cash and prizes. Kini
noted that Aloha Festivals is hoping to hold a separate poke
contest among Oahu companies in downtown Honolulu.
“What we want to do this year is to get the community involved
in Aloha Festivals at every level,” she explained. “We’d like to
have different companies and organizations hold their own poke
contest, then bring their winners together for a ‘People’s Choice’
contest during the downtown hoolaulea.”
Traditionally, the largest draws are the floral parades and
hoolauleas held statewide. Set for Sept. 11, the Oahu parade will
flow through Waikiki with a two-hour procession of horseback
riders, floats, hula troupes and bands.
Kini pointed out that the festival attracts a great deal of
repeat business to the islands. “When people travel, they want to
find value in it. They want experiences where they can learn,” she
remarked. “We feel Aloha Festivals helps people appreciate and
respect our roots which will hopefully help them appreciate their
own as well. It’s a cultural experience that we share
Hawaiian has signed on as Statewide Presenting Sponsor,
providing more than $500,000 in support for 2004-2006.
Leolani Kini, president of the festivals, noted that Hawaiian
Airline’s generous donation has allowed the festival to reinstate
program aspects that had been eliminated.
“Prior to Hawaiian’s sponsorship, we had to cancel several of
our events,” she said. “Now we can revitalize some of those that
add to the bigger events.”
Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines’ president and chief operating
officer, explained that the carrier’s support goes beyond the
“It’s a commitment from our entire company to help invigorate
and promote Aloha Festivals over the next few years as a
world-class cultural celebration,” he said. Dunkerley characterized
Hawaiians’ relationship with the Aloha Festivals as a
“Our organizations are deeply rooted in this community,” he
said. “Hawaiian Airlines is celebrating its 75th anniversary this
year, Aloha Festivals its 58th. And we share an interest in the
preservation and perpetuation of Hawaii’s heritage and