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East Maui Taro Festival

Hana pounding with nonstop food, music, Hawaiian culture

Prepping the “lo‘i,” or “taro patch,” for planting is an East Maui multi-generational family. Photos courtesy East Maui Taro Festival

The 27th annual East Maui Taro Festival will be pounding with food, music, Hawaiian culture and arts and crafts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Hana Ballpark.

“The purpose of the festival is to feature taro/kalo in all its various forms — in the food plates, live plants for farmers and gardeners, taro-themed merchandise, informational materials and hands-on activities,” says Event Coordinator Judy Kinser.

“East Maui Taro Farmers make fresh poi and other taro products such as kulolo for tasting and for sale. Poi pounding is popular with the younger generation and visitors alike,” she continues. “So is talking story with the elders working on their skills and crafts — fishnets, weaving, cloth making — all highlights of the festival. Local musicians and hula halau entertain all day and admission is free.”

‘Ahahui Ka’ahumanu will do the blessing. Music will be provided all day long by Drew Martin, Jay Auweloa, Leokane & CJ, Lahela, Ola Hou, Maka Cosma, Poerava Ori Nui, Kuaola, Pat Simmons Jr. and Exposejah.

FOOD BOOTHS

Kahanu Garden has the largest breadfruit orchard in the world. It will offer free tours at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Bring your appetites and eco-friendly shopping bags to buy up a plethora of all-things taro along with other local favorites.

For instance, Hana Feast will serve taro tater tots with its shrimp and steak plates. Janelle Mackiewicz will do poi ensaymadas, a brioche style of dessert bread, which can be traced from Spain with influences from Arab cultures. The Kawaiaea ohana will repeat its famous taro seafood chowder.

“They’ve been serving this dish for decades now and it’s always a crowd favorite,” says Kinser. “You will also find pork haha, which are taro stalks cooked with pork and chili-pepper shoyu, a must-have Hawaii condiment.”

Jonnie Oliveira will do laulau, traditional pork or beef wrapped in taro leaf and steamed for hours, and make taro-mac salad. Pohaku Kane will prepare beef luau, taro leaves cooked like spinach, served with “ulu,” or “breadfruit,” salad and turkey-tail laulau with “uala,” or “sweet potato.”

Kaukini Ohana will make chicken luau, tripe stew, pohole salad and poi mochi. There will also be Boba teas, smoothies, shave ice and taro ice cream if you’re craving sweets after lunch. The whole event will be picture poi-fect, for sure.

THE BACKGROUND

East Maui Taro Festival was founded to preserve and protect cultural practices with a focus on taro, as it is the symbol and staple of the Kanaka Maoli, the Hawaiian people. Festival goals are to educate the public about relevant issues, to support taro farmers and be a voice for taro as well as traditional Hawaiian culture and practices. The East Maui Taro Festival organizers and directors wish to express gratitude to the County of Maui Office of Economic Opportunity and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for generous support of the festival. For more details, visit www.tarofestival.org or call 264-1553.

TOURS AND MORE

Kahanu Garden and Mahele Farm will team to have a booth in the agricultural tent, where the staff will feature information on their gardens’ work and share retail offerings such as T-shirts, books, native plants and mamaki tea.

The following day on Sunday, April 14th, Kahanu Garden and Mahele Farm will offer a free, guided tour from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Ulaino Road in Hana. Reservations are not mandatory but RSVPs at the taro fest booth are appreciated.

Kahanu is an expansive botanical garden, curating Pacific plants and the largest breadfruit collection in the world, and holds the Pi’ilanihale Heiau, a sacred, archeologically-significant site. Mahele is a 10-acre community farm next to Kahanu. For more details, call 248-8912 or email www.kahanu@ntbg.org.