Monday, July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021

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Festival celebrates aloha spirit in Vancouver

Esther Short Park will be bustling with Hawaiian and Polynesian culture

By , Columbian Arts & Features Reporter
Published:
9 Photos
Students perform traditional Hawaiian dance during the Ho'ike and Hawaiian Festival at Esther Short Park in 2010.
Students perform traditional Hawaiian dance during the Ho'ike and Hawaiian Festival at Esther Short Park in 2010. Photo Gallery

What: Three Days of Aloha in the Pacific Northwest, including hula and craft workshops, hula contests, Ho’Ike Hawaiian Festival, more.

When: Workshops are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today; festival events are 4 to 10 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Workshops at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St.; festival in Esther Short Park, across the street at 400 W. Sixth St.

Cost: Festival in the park is free; workshops at the Hilton are generally around $75.

Information: hawaiianfestivalpnw.com; kekukuifoundation.org

The first time Deva Leinani Yamashiro saw people dancing in Esther Short Park, it felt like a homecoming.

What: Three Days of Aloha in the Pacific Northwest, including hula and craft workshops, hula contests, Ho'Ike Hawaiian Festival, more.

When: Workshops are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today; festival events are 4 to 10 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Workshops at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St.; festival in Esther Short Park, across the street at 400 W. Sixth St.

Cost: Festival in the park is free; workshops at the Hilton are generally around $75.

Information: <a href="http://hawaiianfestivalpnw.com/">hawaiianfestivalpnw.com</a>; <a href="http://kekukuifoundation.org/">kekukuifoundation.org</a>

“In Hawaii, we always have big festivals in the parks. People just come and chill and bring beach chairs and eat and listen to music and watch hula,” said the executive director of Vancouver’s Ke Kukui Foundation, who moved to the mainland with her sons in 1995 — and spent too much time after that hungry for some warm, comfortable “aloha spirit,” she said.

“We have so many children growing up here on the continent. We want to teach them what we learned, growing up in Hawaii,” she said.

Then she discovered Vancouver’s newly renovated downtown living room, where she got struck by Pacific-island lightning: “Oh wow — this would be an awesome place to bring hula.”

In the years since, Yamashiro’s personal mission of keeping Hawaiian and Polynesian culture alive on the mainland has grown from a handful of hula classes to the celebrated cultural foundation that she started in 2003. The Ke Kukui Foundation offers ongoing educational opportunities as well as several big community events every year.

And here comes the biggest: Three Days of Aloha in Vancouver this weekend (two remaining days now, since Thursday night’s opening party is a memory):

• Today, master teachers will offer workshops on all things Hawaiian at the Hilton Vancouver Washington — from traditional dance (and dancing with a disability) to language, spiritual values, crafts, chanting, massage— even history and current affairs. Or, take a walking field trip to Fort Vancouver to learn about the Hawaiian laborers at historic Kanaka Village.

All are welcome, but things get underway promptly at 9 a.m., and the registration price is $75 for most classes, which are mostly aimed at advanced students. (The park ranger-guided field trip is $40.) Online registration is closed now, but you can still register at the event.

• Free fun for the general public begins at 4 p.m. today, with hours of music and pageantry in Esther Short Park. The Hapa Haole Hula Competition offers solo and group hula dancers and musicians performing in classic early 20th century style, when cultural crossover between Hawaii and the West generated a boatload of unforgettably poppy English-language tunes such as “Little Grass Shack,” “Hukilau” and “Tiny Bubbles.” Winners selected by expert judges will enjoy prizes and recognition — and get ready to strut their stuff again Saturday.

• But first, some education. When Friday night hula winds down at around 10 p.m., a screen will go up so you can view an animated hourlong documentary called “Pa’a Ke Aupuni, the Reel History of Hawaii.” Preview the trailer at www.kamakakoi.com/paa. “A lot of people don’t really know anything about Hawaii,” said Yamashiro.

• Saturday begins at 8 a.m. with a fun 5K run/walk along the Columbia River waterfront — complete with Hawaiian music at the turnaround near McMenamins restaurant. Registration closes at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and the cost is $40.

• The heartbeat of it all is Saturday’s free Ho’Ike & Hawaiian Festival, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the park and stuffed full of music, dancing, arts and crafts, activities for children, food vendors, beer garden and more. Thousands regularly turn up for this tourism award-winning outing, which Ke Kukui says is the third-largest annual event in the park. Bring a low-backed chair or blanket, and settle in to enjoy that happy spirit of aloha.

That word, by the way, has been repurposed as a friendly greeting in recent years, but its original meaning is deeper and subtler: it’s “the breath of life,” “love and respect,” “peace,” “compassion” and “mercy.”

“It’s a way of life,” Yamashiro said. “It’s in your spirit and your being. If the world had more aloha, we wouldn’t have all these problems.”

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