KAILUA-KONA — With Toa Huhina, representing the Marquesas Islands, leading the way, six groups representing six nations gathered Friday night to share their culture with Hawaii Island.
The grounds of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona hosted the opening ceremony of the second Hawaii Kuauli Pacific and Asia Cultural Festival. The festival strives to celebrate the cultural heritage of Pacific and Asian nations and the cultures found here in Hawaii.
“It’s cultural education, engagement and awareness — and not only that, but it’s bringing different cultures together because it is the Pacific and Asia Festival, not just the Hawaii festival,” said volunteer Janet Yoo. “The heart of the festival is to bring people together in unity and see the bigger picture.”
Along with Toa Huhina during the opening ceremony were Kelston Intermediate School representing Samoa, Morning Star Cultural Center representing Korea, Taiohi Manawataki representing New Zealand, Kona Visayan Club representing the Philippines and Island Breeze Impact representing Fiji.
“I love the aspect of physically bringing people from overseas together,” Yoo said. “I think that’s something that you wouldn’t be able to get if we didn’t intentionally put on this festival. And seeing people in one place coming together, it’s just a physical representation of unity.”
Each group introduced their nation to the crowd with either a chant or cultural dance.
“The opening night is amazing,” said Becky Fernandez, chairwoman of the festival’s marketing committee. “Seeing the exchange of gifts and culture and everything that is happening is so powerful. Seeing young and old exchanging and seeing cultures exchanging, it just gives you chicken skin the whole night.”
After the opening ceremony Friday, the celebration continued through Sunday with cultural workshops, a keiki hula competition, a Pacific and Asia marketplace, and food booths. A luau Sunday closed out the festivities.
There also was a “wearable arts” fashion, which Fernandez said last week would be unlike any fashion show anyone on Hawaii Island had ever seen.
“There’s going to be a lot of young fashion designers showing their stuff for the first time and we have some international designers showing their stuff in Hawaii for the first time, too,” she said.
Email Elizabeth Pitts at email@example.com.