Chrysanthemum Festival marks 66th year
Five Maui high school teens are vying for the crown of the 66th 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 Dec. 8 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:
• Lannie Hisashima, 16, of Haiku, a junior at King Kekaulike High School and the daughter of Kary and Debbie Hisashima.
• Kayleen Lau, 17, of Wailuku, a senior at Kamehameha Schools Maui and the daughter of Jonathan Lau and the late Mariye Sherri Tokunaga Lau.
• Kara Nakahashi, 16, of Wailuku, a junior at Baldwin High School and the daughter of Mavis and Frankie Nakahashi.
• Erin Tanaka, 15, of Wailuku, a sophomore at Seabury Hall and the daughter of Lori and Kirk Tanaka.
• Jolee Tanaka, 16, of Wailuku, a junior at Maui High School and the daughter of Joanne and Dutch Tanaka-Akana.
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 Sons and Daughters’ historical preservation projects, which are done for the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, and annual scholarships.
This year, $1,000 scholarships were awarded to 10 graduates of high schools on Maui.
The Chrysanthemum Festival includes the coronation of the queen. During this segment, the court members and their escorts perform two choreographed dances. 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 Inc. 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. Most of the veterans were nisei, or the second generation of AJAs.
In 2007, the event name was changed to Chrysanthemum Festival, to reflect its focus on Japanese culture.
In 2008, the veterans turned the event over to Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans. The two groups partnered to continue the veterans’ long-standing scholarship program.
In 2016, the Maui AJA Veterans disbanded due to aging and declining membership. Its funds were distributed to the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center and to Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans.
The Chrysanthemum Ball and Festival have been a major source of funding for annual scholarships. The Maui AJA Veterans provided hundreds of scholarships over the years.
The Sons and Daughters pledged to use its share to continue the tradition of providing scholarships to worthy Maui high school graduates, and it honors the veterans group by retaining its name in the financial aid effort. Funds are distributed through the Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans / Maui AJA Veterans Scholarship Program.