Thousands jam Waikiki for Pan-Pacific Festival Hoolaulea - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Thousands jam Waikiki for Pan-Pacific Festival Hoolaulea

Lori Hembree Lori Hembree
Mike Hembree Mike Hembree
Debbie Gray Debbie Gray
Fili Tualaulelei Fili Tualaulelei
Benjamin Fukumoto Benjamin Fukumoto

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Pan-Pacific Festival kicked off with a ho'olaule'a Friday night, starting three days of celebrations that dovetail with the Kamehameha Day weekend.

Some 30,000 people were expected to turn out for the event, including many who were here for the Kamehameha Day Parade.

"We just thought we were coming here for the parade," said Lori Hembree, visiting from Rogersville, Mo. "We didn't anticipate all this."

"Our daughter is one of the members of the Logan Rogersville Marching Band from Rogersville," said Hembree's husband, Mike. "We came over for that. I'm glad we did."

There was a lot of food and entertainment at the 32nd annual Ho'olaule'a.

"It's really cool," said Debbie Gray, another visitor from Missouri. "It reminds me of the stuff that we do in our town. We have an arts fest over a weekend, and they do similar things with vendors. But this is definitely unique."

One of the vendors is Tribal Edge Clothing, which is back at the Ho'olaule'a for a second year.

"It was a great experience for the first time, trying to run a business and get a job going and all that," said T-shirt artist Fili Tualaulelei of Tribal Edge Clothing. "Hopefully tonight will be great with people out and people buying."

The Pan-Pacific Festival has expanded since its beginnings in 1980 to include many Pacific Basin countries. But there are still many Japanese visitors who come here for the festival, including 300 who arrived from Hiroshima on a Japan Airlines flight chartered just for the event.

"What really was the purpose was the exchange of cultures between Japan and Hawaii because we've always had a really strong relationship," said Benjamin Fukumoto, the festival's chairman.

And the Japan-Hawaii link has become stronger after the earthquake and tsunami two months ago.

Hula Halau Hui Lehua, a halau from Sendai, performed as their way of saying thanks for all the help and donations in the wake of the disaster.

The Pan-Pacific Matsuri Festival will culminate in a parade down Kalakaua Avenue Sunday afternoon.

Related story: King Kamehameha weekend road closures


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