HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every year, tens of thousands of people head to the popular Made in Hawaii Festival at the Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall. But how many of the products are actually made in Hawaii?
A handful of the 438 vendors at the 18th annual event claim that some of their fellow exhibitors have products that aren't made locally.
Most of what's on sale is obviously made in Hawaii, such as Hawaiian sea salt, lauhala hats, clothing, crafts, and locally-grown produce. But some products could raise questions, such as t-shirts with Hello Kitty logos or Domo-kun, the mascot for the Japanese television network NHK.
"We ask exhibitors to fill out evaluation forms to show how their formula of putting products together are done, and that must be 51 percent value added, manufactured, fabricated or assembled here in the state of Hawaii," said Amy Hammond, manager of the Made in Hawaii Festival.
In fact, that's state law. The text of the law appeared in full on the festival application for the first time this year, said Hammond. "We had strengthened it with this value-added formula, and also ensuring that the law is on the application. So if they're signing that their products are made in Hawaii, then it becomes fraud" if they don't meet that standard, she said.
The application also clearly states that any exhibitor who violates the festivals rules and regulations -- including the state law -- will be required to vacate their booth and won't be entitled to a refund. At the very least, products that appear to be violation of Made in Hawaii laws may be asked to "remove the articles not in compliance or close the booth."
One vendor at the show had backpacks with tags in Japanese on them. However, she had to show proof that the added designs to the backpacks were designed and manufactured here.
As for the Domo-kun t-shirts, the vendor selling them had already been questioned by Made in Hawaii staff about them. "We have a printing company on Sand Island, so they did the printing for us," said Cary Hirayama, who has been an exhibitor at the festival for four or five years.
Festival organizers said having products that aren't made in Hawaii has been an ongoing problem, but they've stepped up efforts to make sure that the vendors at least follow the law. Hammond said that even if exhibitors aren't asked to close their booths and leave during the show, chances are that their application will be denied the next time around.