The 17th annual Honolulu Festival will do its part to foster peace and harmony between members of the Asia-Pacific region in advance of the November arrival of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting with heads of state from 21 member economies.
The three-day festival, which takes place March 11 to 13, is like a mini-APEC without the politics. Some 4,500 visitors will come to celebrate the culture, customs and traditions of Asians and Pacific islanders, and they’ll spend nearly $10 million.
"The Honolulu Festival is a favorite event of residents and visitors who appreciate the culture of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim, and the fact that it generates meaningful revenue for the state is an added bonus," said Mike McCartney, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Attendance at events like the Honolulu Festival helps fill hotel rooms and boost revenues throughout the visitor industry, said Barry Wallace, executive vice president of hospitality services for Outrigger Enterprises Group.
"We have visitors from Japan that are coming just for this event," Wallace said.
The chance to see hula and listen to Hawaiian music greatly enhances the visitor experience, said Ed Nelson, a visitor from Colorado, who got a preview of the festival entertainment at a press conference yesterday at the Beach Walk in Waikiki.
"It was a great birthday treat," said Nelson, who marked his 92nd birthday with his first hula show.
"What a neat thing to stumble upon. I’m just sorry that we’re leaving tomorrow."
The festival, which was founded in 1995, provides a needed boost for Waikiki tourism, but its main purpose is to foster Pacific harmony, said Keiichi Tsujino, president of the Honolulu Festival Foundation.
"The Honolulu Festival is Hawaii’s best value for families to experience and learn firsthand about the people and cultures of the Asia-Pacific," Tsujino said.
While the festival began with a Japanese flavor, it has grown to include participation from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, the mainland and Alaska, he said. This year, groups from South Korea, New Zealand and Canada also will offer free cultural exhibits and performances, Tsujino said.
IF YOU’RE GOING
Honolulu Festival will hold a variety of events at the following times and locations. All are free except the Friendship Gala.
SATURDAY, MARCH 12
» 10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Hawaii Convention Center
SUNDAY, MARCH 13
» 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Hawaii Convention Center
* The first 100 participants receive a Honolulu Festival happi coat