Even if you have the attack strategy of Gen. George S. Patton, the agility of an Olympic gymnast and the wellspring of energy that denotes a true shopper, the row upon row of gems and jewels, chips, cookies, coffee, artwork and food samples can bring you to a dead stop in the center of the annual, three-day Made in Hawaii Festival going on this weekend at the Blaisdell Center.
With 450 booths, displays and exhibits to tempt you, the first decision out of the ticket gate will be which way to turn: mauka to the Exhibition Hall for shopping and music concerts, or makai to the Arena for food tasting at the Iron Chef culinary demonstrations?
Ten years ago, when Amy Hammond took over management of the show, there were 61 exhibitors. As the number of booths grew to 450, so did the enthusiasm of the vendors.
15TH ANNUAL MADE IN HAWAII FESTIVAL
Sponsored by First Hawaiian Bank
Where: Neal S. Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall and Arena
When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $3, $1 discount coupons available at First Hawaiian Bank locations on Oahu. Children 6 and under are free.
Info: www.madeinhawaiifestival.com, 533-1292
Kimi Chun, president of Peggy Chun Gallery and 10-year participant selling the lush watercolors of Peggy Chun, says, "Of all the shows, this is our favorite. It’s like a big backyard family reunion. Us old-timers, anyone with a year or two under our belt, are ready to welcome the newcomers."
Chun calls this the "first and best Christmas shopping opportunity" and a place for real bargains.
A third of the exhibitors are from the neighbor islands, Hammond says — and Made in Hawaii is often the only chance the vendors have to shop their wares on Oahu.
Because the variety and expanse of Made in Hawaii can be impressive, we’ve created this guide to help you make best use of your visit.
THE LINEUP: Made in Hawaii includes more than 450 local vendors, presenting food, fashion, concerts, artwork, woodwork, plants, produce, home accessories, beauty and bath products, jewelry, gifts, games, food tasting and cooking demonstrations by top chefs — all with the theme "Buy Hawaii, Keep Aloha Strong."
HOW TO: It may seem obvious but this is important: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a big shoulder bag.
Have a carefully designed plan of attack and invite a trusted friend along who can say "no" — and to whom you’ll listen.
Shop, then take a seat for entertainment by a Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning artist.
Follow the aroma of gourmet cooking by a fine chef. Taste the results of a cooking lesson.
The fully loaded, printed program, free at the entry door, has an easy-to-follow numbered booth map.
What isn’t easy? Overcoming distractions. Temptresses wave you over — "Try our fudge sauce, dear," or the woodcarver says, "Hey, relax, try this," as he holds out a polished wood back massage tool. Make a plan to shop by the booth numbers. Stick with it, if you have a set amount of time — though making discoveries is part of the fun, too.
NEW STUFF: Big Island artist Beverly Kealahui has been working for many months, "nonstop" she says, on her line of jewelry, Na Lei ‘Kealaluhi . Her matching shell earrings and pendants, inspired by a painting of Queen Liliuokalani, have been a hit at the Merrie Monarch Festival.
"Everyone said I should go to Made in Hawaii. So here I am," she said.
Liane Onaga’s first concern is having a well-dressed dog. Her Fauna Collections University of Hawaii doggie T-shirts have sold out for three years at Made in Hawaii. Onaga designs for teacup-size to big dogs and reminds shoppers, "If they are fluffy, buy a size larger."
New this year, Inu Inu’s stylish doggie kimonos are just right for the final bon dance of the season. Designer Sasha Dominy has added a selection of apple-size, musubi chew toys that also double as cute collectibles.
MUNCHABLES: The movable feast of the show provides a delicious way to keep shopping energy flowing.
Hawaiian Chip Co. owner James Chan credits Made in Hawaii with expanding his company 1,600 percent, creating a "great demand for my taro and sweet-potato chips."
Try Hawaiian Fish Bites fish jerky, Aikane Plantation Kau Coffee, some mango ginger Anahola Granola, and Dan and Ona Marie Belmont’s "spoonalicious" Hawaiian Fudge Sauce. They suggest using a spoon, but "other implements, such as a strawberry or a finger, may be used at home."
Take foodie goodies home, too. Ono Kona Chips come in Petroglyphs in Paradise packaging. The Guava Garlic spiced salt from Kauai’s Salty Wahine begs for steak to pair with.
SIGHTINGS & SIZZLE: Dedicated foodies might need repeat visits to the Arena side of the show for cooking and tasting.
To name a few:
Friday’s fare includes the creations of chef Darren Demaya of Kai Market at Sheraton Waikiki.
Saturday’s menu includes a sneak peek at Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s creations, soon to be available in Waikiki.
On Sunday, sample the style of Kalapawai Cafe chef John Memering.
ART SMART: Made in Hawaii is a showcase for fine art in the islands — carvings, ceramics, paintings and prints, accompanied by the artists, who are ready to talk about their work.
Just steps from the door of the Exhibition Hall, the Pacific Handcrafters Guild members fill 40 booths with designer clothing, jewelry and original art by 50 member artists.
MAKING MUSIC: Check the schedule of concerts in the Pikake Room. Sit down, rest feet and savor the music of Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning musicians, including Cyril Pahinui, Melveen Leed, Kaukahi, Maunalua, Mailani and Makana.
Christmas-shop early at the sales table here. The artists are happy to give an autographed shout-out to those on your gift list, signing their CDs after each performance.
SHIP IT: If you’re shopping for gifts, Made in Hawaii will make this easy. Visit the on-site U.S. Post Office booth in the breezeway outside the Arena. Pack all those gifts into an Aloha from Hawaii flat-rate box and get points for sending holiday aloha really early!
Correction: The Made in Hawaii Festival continues until 9 p.m. tonight and tomorrow. An earlier version of this story had the wrong closing time.