The Ritz puttin’ on the Hawaiian

A panel discussion on Food Sovereignty and an awa tasting presented like a wine seminar will be among the many highlights of Celebration of the Arts March 29 to 31 at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

“For the 21st consecutive year, the Ritz will bring together some of Hawaii’s most reputable artisans, educators, entertainers and cultural practitioners,” says the resort’s cultural advisor and Celebration founder Clifford Nae’ole.

“This year’s theme, ‘E ulu. . .e ulu mau to grow and grow forever,’ promises a nod to the days of nostalgic Hawaii while looking forward to the future and the impact today’s decisions have on tomorrow.”

Many of the events are free and open to the public, such as the opening ceremonies in which Hawaiian practitioners will recite their genealogy through traditional oli (chants). And, music and hula will flow continuously throughout the weekend.

Hands-on art, demonstrations, Hawaiian films, cultural panels, music and dance will also add to the festivities.

Modern Luxury Magazine dubs it the “No. 1 Rated Annual Festival” and it’s also been the recipient of the “Keep it Hawaii Kahili Award,” presented by the Hawaii Tourism Association.

The Food Sovereignty panel will surely keep Celebration of the Arts at the top of its game, as local farmers and agriculturalists demonstrate the importance of protecting the “old seeds,” when GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms are prevalent. So this is a hot topic, indeed.

“Speakers will include Pomaikai Crozier, the watershed manager for Pu’u Kukui; Matt Kalani Souza, Big Island environmental activist; and Hoku’ao Pellegrino, organic taro farmer from Waikapu.

“Basically, this will address the effects of non-organic farming and the benefits as well,” says Nae’ole. “The pros and cons. We all know the organic way is the best way to grow things, but can the old seeds keep up with the quantity needed to feed everyone? We’re open to all opinions.”

While taro, or “kalo,” the elder brother of all plants in Hawaiian culture, is propagated by vegetative cuttings in modern times, it has about 100 seeds on each plant.

“Our kupuna were botanists,” Pellegrino says. “They hybridized over 400 varieties of kalo by cross pollination.”

Other thought-provoking panels include “E kala mai, excuse me a two-way street” by Brook Kapukuniahi Parker; and “Remembering a Princess,” in which the direct lineal descendants of Princess Kale Davis engage in a moving discussion about a princess lost in time.

At the Awa Tasting Saturday, March 30, Kumu Kapono’ai Molitau will guide you through tastes of five awa varieties as they are paired with Hawaiian delicacies made by Ritz chefs.

“I call Kapono’ai a master sommelier of awa,” says Nae’ole. “The bitterness of this traditional healing plant will stand up to the Hawaiian foods. Participants must be 18 years of age and older.”

Stick around for the hugely popular annual Celebration Lu’au and Show Saturday night, March 30, and the grand finale of the Easter Sunday brunch.

“The luau will almost be like a variety show this year,” says Nae’ole. “Kahulanui is a nine-piece jazz band from Kona that will rock the house. Its horn section is tough. They take it to the next level.”

The luau fare is authentic and include fresh ahi and octopus poke, poi, kalua turkey, uala (sweet potato), opihi (limpets), laulau, kalua pig, chicken long rice, pohole fern shoots, fresh malasadas with hot chocolate fudge, and Hawaiian coffee.

The nightly Celebration After-Hours Party in the Alaloa Lounge is complimentary for adults to enjoy, from 9 p.m. to midnight. The finest entertainers will take the stage with impromptu performances in fun-filled jam sessions that reflect the spirit of aloha for which the islands are renowned. Yes, the Ritz is puttin’ on the Hawaiian.