WAILUKU - A 4-H member, cheerleader, band percussionist and Tahitian style dancer are among the four high school students vying for the crown of the 56th annual Chrysanthemum Festival to be held at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku.
The fundraiser and celebration of Japanese culture will feature the queen coronation, dinner by Ichiban Okazuya plus entertainment, demonstrations and exhibits.
The queen will be the contestant who raises the most money through ticket sales and general donations to the event sponsor, Maui's Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans.
Proceeds will benefit scholarships provided by the sponsor in partnership with the Maui AJA Veterans Inc., and support historical preservation programs associated with the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center.
The queen contestants are:
* Caitlyn Miyamoto, 16, of Kahului, daughter of Dr. Michael and Joyce Miyamoto. The Baldwin High School junior is treasurer of the Morning Glories 4-H Club and the Maui County 4-H organization. At Baldwin, she is a member of the National Honor Society, and the bowling and golf teams, and is corresponding secretary of the Key Club. She also dances with Halau 'O Keaunui 'O Maui.
* Ryanne Ortiz, 16, of Kula, daughter of Kimberly Endo. The Kamehameha Schools Maui senior is a cheerleader and member of the Spirit and Japanese clubs. Ortiz also is a Girl Scout and student ambassador of the People to People international education program.
* Tara Yamashiro, 16, of Kula, daughter of Richard and Lynne Yamashiro. The King Kekaulike High School junior is the treasurer of the Filipino Club and Tri-M Music Honor Society, and a member of the Japanese Club and golf team. She serves as historian and secretary of the band program, of which she performs in the drum-line/percussion, marching and symphonic groups.
* Chastity Mahealani Yasutomi, 17, of Kahului, daughter of Christy Yasutomi-Tancayo and Kioni Tancayo. The Maui High senior is involved in her school's marching band, Japanese Club and newspaper. She performs hula and other Pacific island dances for Tihati Productions, and Tahitian dance for Tava Nui.
Tickets to the festival cost $15. Call Leonard Oka at 385-7670 to get more event information, to buy event tickets from a particular contestant or to donate in her name.
Oka and Gary Nakama are co-chairmen of the 2008 Festival.
The festival had been an annual undertaking of the Maui AJA Veterans, which was formed in 1947 as the nisei (second-generation Americans of Japanese ancestry) returned from World War II with the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service.
They wanted to continue their camaraderie, honor fallen comrades and serve their community. Over the years, their community activities included Pony League baseball (the field at Kahului School was renamed the Maui AJA Veterans Pony League Ballpark in the mid-1990s) and age-group swim meets. Currently they help to support the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center and to provide scholarships to students of all ethnic backgrounds who seek higher education. Last year, the Maui AJA Veterans distributed 10 scholarships of $1,000 each.
The group also includes a few veterans from the Korean and later wars. However, the core group is aging and less able to present large events; so the Maui's Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans took over the festival.
Most of the Maui AJA Veterans are in their 80s, said Tom Hiranaga, longtime treasurer of the AJA annual event. All of the club's active members of the 100th Battalion have died, he said, and the club has not had a women's auxiliary group for "a long time.
He welcomes the younger group's sponsorship.
"I want to see the Sons and Daughters built up," he said, recognizing the historical preservation work being done. "They are the ones who going to carry on."
The historical projects include the collection of memorabilia, documents, photographs and other materials, and an oral history project to be archived in the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center. The Sons and Daughters group also participates in the Go for Broke Foundation's national oral/vi-deo history project and events, such as a Veterans Day tribute at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
Until 2006, the festival was known as the Chrysanthemum Ball, reflecting the prominence of ballroom dancing at past events. In 2007, the festival became a Japanese cultural event, featuring entertainment, demonstrations and exhibits.
However, the event maintains the traditional ballroom dance performance by the court during the coronation. The contestants and their escorts practice weekly under the direction of Jeff and Lydia Dela Cruz, who are assisted by Mark and Diane Figge.
The Maui Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans and the Maui AJA Veterans Inc. are nonprofit entities, as is the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center located at the intersection of Kahului Beach Road and Waiehu Beach Road. The center is a tribute to the AJAs who served in World War II.
The center's first phase, which opened in summer 2006, houses an intergenerational center that includes the Kansha Preschool and the Maui Adult Day Care Centers' Ocean View Facility. The next and final phase is an Education Building that will serve as an archive and facility for educational and research activities.
The County of Maui co-sponsors the Chrysanthemum Festival.