Festivals of Aloha = Hawaiian Culture

Annual extravaganza dances into Lanai, Molokai and then Hana

Mama’s Fish House Executive Chef Perry Bateman and food-runner Justin Gera at the Kuau restaurant. Bateman will share his manao, or thoughts, at the Ulu Cook Off at Hana Ball Park Oct. 12. -- The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

The Festivals of Aloha will continue to perpetuate Hawaiian culture through the islands of Maui Nui with food, music, parades and activities at fun community events until Oct. 14, when it culminates with a free concert and a food-booth luau in Hana after a week of events there.

This year’s festivities started on Sept. 1 at the Wailuku First Friday party, then moved to the Banyan Tree in Lahaina, followed by a falsetto contest at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel and even more fun at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center in Kahului on Friday.

“The Richard Ho’opi’i Leo Ki’eki’e Falsetto Contest was fantastic,” says Daryl Fujiwara, Festivals of Aloha Maui County coordinator. “It was so wonderful to get everyone together. All of those musicians and all of that talent. This is the first year we added a dinner and everyone said they just loved the food that was served at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel.”

Yet Festivals of Aloha is just starting to pick up steam. On Saturday, it will power boat over to the island of Lanai.

The Lana’i Ho’olaule’a will kick up its heels from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Dole Administration Building featuring Raiatea Helm and other live entertainment, hula, cultural demonstrations, free keiki activities, crafters and artisans and ono eats.

The Molokai parade and hoolaulea will feature colorful floats Oct. 7. -- The Maui News / Photo courtesy Festivals of Aloha

“I also just secured Nathan Aweau for Lanai. That day, the Expeditions Ferry will have a late run to Lahaina and if you have a Festivals of Aloha ribbon, you get a free ride back to Maui,” says Fujiwara. “The kamaaina rate for a one way to Lanai is $25.”

The Festivals of Aloha then island hops over to Molokai for fun-filled days and nights Oct. 6 and 7 in Kaunakakai town.

Photo ops will be abundant at the Investiture of the Royal Court in a traditional Hawaiian ceremony at 6 p.m. at Mitchell Pauole Center. The evening will also include the Poke Contest and the Ulu-Uala-Kalo Contest, showcasing the “canoe plants” of Hawaii.

Ulu is breadfruit, uala is sweet potato and kalo is taro. All of these prized plants were brought to Hawaii by voyaging Polynesians aboard their sailing vessels, thus “canoe plants.”

“The public enters their own dishes and as long as it tastes wonderful, it will be good,” says Rachel Dudoit, the Molokai Festivals of Aloha coordinator. “We will also have food booths by Molokai nonprofits serving up laulau, Filipino food and shoyu chicken; and game booths by churches and schools. Plus, the Investiture is pretty neat to watch. We’ll also fly in Touch of Gold and Kuana from Oahu as entertainment and our halau here will do dances.”

Raiatea Helm will perform on Lanai on Saturday. -- The Maui News / Photo courtesy Festivals of Aloha

On Saturday, Oct. 7, Kaunakakai will come alive at 9 a.m. with a one-of-a-kind parade that features pa’u riders on horseback, country-style floats and exotic flowers.

“We try to include all of the islands in the pa’u section of the parade,” Dudoit explains.

Following the parade at 11 a.m., a hoolaulea at the Mitchell Pauole Center gathers Hawaiian artisans and local entertainment and feature games and food booths.

“Find your seat in the shade, eat a plate lunch in your lap, relax and enjoy the ‘nahenahe,’ or ‘gentle,’ entertainment,” says Dudoit.

All the way across the rough Pailolo Channel in remote East Maui, the Festivals of Aloha will light up Hana town from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 7 with an opening parade by a grand marshall, the Hana Royal Court, pa’u riders, floral floats, vintage cars, custom motorcycles, a marching band and much more.

The Royal Court will parade with Hawaiian pomp and circumstance inro Hana Ball Park Oct. 12. -- The Maui News / Photo courtesy Festivals of Aloha

The Hana Ho’olaule’a will follow with the “Tiny Malaikini Public Service Award” being presented; lei and aloha keiki-wear contests, the makahiki symposium, silent auction, non-stop live music, and food and craft booths set up all day long.

“Hana has two to three events every single day for the whole week,” says Fujiwara. “You can only get away with having Festivals of Aloha in these small towns in the Neighbor Islands as it keeps its charm.”

Before this story lists the rest of the activities for Hana, let’s explore how Festivals of Aloha got started in the first place. In fact, some of you may remember it as Aloha Festivals, which it is still called on Oahu.

“Aloha Festivals started circa 1960s by my great-grandmother,” says Fujiwara. “It was the reemergence of Hawaiian culture after people had been prohibited from speaking the language and practicing the traditions.”

“In 2007, Aloha Festivals was discontinued, and a private Oahu company picked it up,” says Fujiwara. “So now that event is only there.”

Nathan Aweau will perform on Lanai on Saturday. -- The Maui News / Photo courtesy Festivals of Aloha

Maui County brought it back with a different name and now Fujiwara serves as the festival coordinator.

“It’s my family’s tradition to put on these big events,” says Fujiwara, who is of Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Irish and Scottish descent.

“My great-grandmother, who helped to start Aloha Festivals, gave the job to her daughter and my grandmother, Edwina Smythe, who started it here. She gave it to Crystal Smythe, her daughter and my aunt, and she then handed this event and Kamehameha Day to me. My generation is better equipped to identify and have connectivity to our culture and this is what I do, plan events.”

And his events are culturally expressive and fun, too.

Hana will make a splash with the Shore Line Fishing Contest at Hana Bay from 7 a.m. to noon Oct. 8, followed by Ohana Beach Day at noon with net throwing, balloon toss and food booths. Then head to Sports Night at Hana Ball Park and top it with a show by the legendary Queen Ka’ahumanu of Hana.

Food will be abundant in Hana. -- The Maui News / Photo courtesy Festivals of Aloha

On Oct. 9, the second Sports Night will be held. Activities, food booths and music will be at Helene Hall.

On Oct. 10, there will be the Kupuna Luncheon at Travaasa Hana with an Aloha Shirt and Mu’umu’u Contest; and Movie in the Park later.

On Oct. 11, the Hana Arts’ Talent Show at Hana Bay will offer Hana homegrown talent under the Hana moon with $1,000 in cash prizes and celebrity judges. Food booths will be abundant.

On Oct. 12, Kahanu Garden will feature the Ulu Cook Off at Hana Ball Park with pro chefs as judges, food demos and yummy samples.

“I’m not a judge, but I will be there to share my manao, or thoughts, on breadfruit,” says Perry Bateman, executive chef of Mama’s Fish House in Kuau Cove. “I’ll talk about the types that we use at the restaurant and how Mama’s owners, who sailed the South Pacific and lived on Tahiti, love ulu. We mash it, bake it, steam it, boil it, roast it and now we braise it for lobster stocks and put it into bisques and thicken sauces as it is so versatile.’

Bateman says that breadfruit, or ulu, holds its shape when cooked, better than just regular potatoes, and that one tree can provide thousands of pounds of edible fruit.

Bateman will do his demo and talk at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 12 and the Ulu Cook Off will then commence at 6 p.m. Entrants should make enough for judges and community samples. So come hungry.

“At Mama’s, we utilize the Ulu Fiti variety from Fiji, Otea and Puaa varieties from French Polynesia, and Maafala from Samoa. My grandmother came back from Tahiti with a tree and I have an offspring. You can throw ulu on the grill, peel it, salt it and eat it.

“When I braise it, I let it cool in the liquid and it penetrates and takes on the flavor of the stock.”

Bateman wows with dishes such as braised ulu with tomato habanero ratatouille with fresh coconut lemongrass emulsion; and ulu Tahitian vanilla pudding with ulu white brownies and Hana starfruit dried with fresh ginger.

“I’ll do anything for Hana. It’s the true essence of Hawaii. The people have respect of the resources and I’ll do anything to perpetuate what Hana is all about. Plus, we love fisherman Greg Lind.”

Greg Lind Jr. and his wife Gina Lind have run the Poke Contest as part of Festivals of Aloha for the past two years.

This year, the Poke Contest will held from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 13 on Country Night in Hana Ball Park.

Kick up your heels, dance and enter contests from the twist to the cha-cha-cha to the electric slide.

“The Poke Contest is open to the community,” says Gina. “Teachers, fishermen, it seems everyone has got their family recipe. Bring it on for contest night.”

The public may buy a $7 plate with about 12, 2-ounce samples of fresh poke.

“You buy a poke plate and get a ballot and you rank the poke in the order of your most favorite. The money from the sales of the poke plates goes to the winners — and also Maui Sporting Goods and Valley Isle Marine Center and others will donate prizes.”

Last but not least, Oct. 14 tees off with the Pupule Golf Game for golf nuts, and that evening will be the Taste of Hana closing luau from 6 to 10 p.m. at Hana Bay.

It will be a special evening of local food, Hawaiian culture and performances by top local musicians such as recording artist Keali’i Reichel and his Halau Ke’alaokamaile. Food concessions will be hosted by Hana’s finest restaurant and food establishments for a true taste of remote Maui.


Events At A Glance

• Where: The fests continue with the next event Saturday on Lanai; Molokai follows with two days of pagentry, food and culture Oct. 6 and 7; and Hana jumps Oct. 7 through 14.

• How much: Most events are free and open to the public. Even the Hana luau and concert admission is free. Just buy food at booths. Buy a $5 Festivals of Aloha ribbon, and proceeds help fund Maui County cultural events.

• For ribbons and more details: You may visit www.festivalsofaloha.com or call 268-9285.

The Molokai coordinator Tina Thompson (above, left) and Daryl Fujiwara, Maui County coordinator plan the details. -- The Maui News / Photo courtesy Festivals of Aloha

An ulu, or breadfruit, dish like this special at Mama’s Fish House will be in a demo in Hana. -- The Maui News / Photo courtesy Festivals of Aloha