International hula conference takes economic hit - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

International hula conference takes economic hit

Janet Leung Janet Leung
Rick Egged Rick Egged

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - It's yet another sign of tough economic times. The 2nd Annual International Waikiki Hula Conference draws fewer people than organizers had hoped.

Organizers say their goal was to attract 1,000 people but only 650 people signed up.

Staff members say they received emails from people who wanted to attend, but cancelled or declined the invitation because they simply could not afford it.

Organizers call it the largest hula conference in the state, attracting hundreds of people from around the world, all eager to learn the art of hula from some of Hawaii's legendary, and most respected kumu.

"It's not just a dance where you shake here, you shake there but it's the traditions that they believe like us that will guide us in the rest of our life," said kumu hula Joan Lindsey.

Last year's inaugural event was so successful, many visitors have returned to experience all the culturally rich lessons offered at the International Waikiki Hula Conference. This year however, the economy is taking a toll on turnout.

"I did a lot of overtime to pay for this," said attendee, Janet Leung.

Leung says she is the only one from her halau on the mainland who could attend.

"Seven had said they were going to come but as the end got through and prices of airlines and they all said they couldn't afford it," she said.

"The fuel costs and general economy have depressed our numbers to a degree this year, so we're real appreciative of those people who have come here," said conference producer Rick Egged.

That appreciation is evident through those at the conference who refuse to let even a downturn in the economy sway them from going the extra mile to learn this ancient hawaiian tradition.

"It's wonderful to see the love people have for our culture and to see the respect they give our culture. It's wonderful," said Lindsey.

Although organizers didn't meet their goal of 1,000 people, they say there are still more participants this year. Last year, the number of attendees at the hula conference was limited to 500.

The event runs through Saturday.

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