Teens in competition for crown of annual Japanese cultural festival

Teens from four Maui high schools are vying for the crown of the 61st Chrysanthemum Festival, a Japanese cultural event that raises funds for scholarships and the historical preservation programs of the sponsor, Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans.

The event will be Nov. 30 at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku. Exhibits and entertainment will be offered at 4:30 p.m., dinner at 6 and the program at 7.

Admission to the festival is free. Tickets for the dinner cost $15.

The queen of the festival is the contestant who raises the most money through ticket sales.

This year’s contestants are:

* Reagan Diana, 16, of Pukalani, a junior at King Kekaulike High School and the daughter of Lorene and Rupert Diana. She is the treasurer of her class at King Kekaulike and a member of the National Honor Society and Interact Club.

* Kaitlin Elizabeth Kim, 17, of Kahului, a senior at St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School and the daughter of John D. and Catherine Nobriga Kim. She is a member of her school’s softball, cheerleading, volleyball, and track and field squads, and the National Honor Society, student government, Spirit Club, LIFE team and Music Ministry. She plans to major in nursing or early-childhood development at Chaminade University or California State University, Sacramento.

* Chaelynn April Love Misay-Serrano, 14, a freshman at Lahainaluna High School and the daughter of Luis Serrano and Chamille Misay-Serrano of Lahaina. She enjoys dancing hula, Tahitian and hip-hop, and is a member of Na Kamali’i O Ke Akua halau, as well as the Hawaiiana Club at Lahainaluna. She also enjoys singing and composing songs, and her plans for the future include being a successful singer or a journalist.

* Erin Ellyse Ruri Murashige, 16, of Wailuku, a junior at Baldwin High School and the daughter of Joyce and the late Clyde Murashige. She dances hula with Halau Hula Kauluokala and is a member of the Pilialoha 4-H Club and the Maui County 4-H Council. At Baldwin, she is a member of the cross country and track and field teams, Key Club, National Honor Society and Project Graduation Committee. She plans to attend a college on the West Coast and major in something in the medical field, perhaps radiology.

For ticket or event information or to contribute to a contestant’s efforts, call Leonard Oka at 249-2163 or 385-7670.

Oka is president of Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans. He is co-chairing the event with Gary Nakama, a past president of the group.

Proceeds support the sponsor’s historical preservation projects, which are done for the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, and for scholarships, given in partnership with Maui AJA Veterans Inc. This year, $10,000 scholarships were awarded to 10 graduates of high schools on Maui.

The Chrysanthemum Festival includes the coronation of the queen. During this segment, a choreographed dance is performed by the court members and their escorts. They are preparing for this performance at weekly sessions with ballroom dance instructors Jeffrey and Lydia Dela Cruz.

Contestants also represent the Sons and Daughters and the NVMC at various events throughout the year.

The annual event was created as the Chrysanthemum Ball, a ballroom-dance affair, by the Maui AJA Veterans as a way to fund its community service in areas such as youth sports and scholarships. AJA stands for Americans of Japanese ancestry; the group was formed as veterans returned from Europe and the Asia-Pacific areas after World War II.

In 2007, the event name was changed to Chrysanthemum Festival, to reflect its focus on Japanese culture. In 2008, the veterans group turned the event over to Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans. Nisei refers to the second generation of AJAs.

*This article includes a correction from the original published on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. The name of Chrysanthemum queen candidate Chaelynn April Love Misay-Serrano’s father was incorrectly spelled in a story in Community on Page C1. Her father’s name is Luis Serrano.