Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi zipped into town Monday with great news for Hawaii’s ice skaters: The Hawaii Convention Center will offer ice-skating along with winter festival activities between Nov. 29 and Dec. 24.
Yamaguchi will be back in November to help celebrate, on the ice Nov. 29 to open the festival and participate in a tree-lighting ceremony.
The rink is the centerpiece attraction of “Winter Wishes — A Holiday Festival” in the facility’s 56,000-square-foot exhibit hall space.
“Any time there’s ice in Hawaii, of course I want to be a part of it, and the convention center seemed so perfect for the ice,” Yamaguchi said during a Monday interview at the convention center.
Petite and camera-ready, Yamaguchi sounded fresh and enthusiastic despite the muggy weather and horrendous humidity.
“I’m really excited to have a winterland festival coming to the convention center, a fun, whimsical place where families can come and enjoy the holidays,” she said.
Festival attractions will include a Christmas Tree Forest and holiday marketplace, photos with Santa, a gingerbread house competition, holiday craft workshops, activities for children who don’t skate, food and beverages.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation, which she founded in 1996 to promote early childhood literacy and provide learning tools for low-income children and their families.
“I was an avid reader myself growing up as a kid and in my teens, and becoming a mom I realized how important, how imperative it is to read your child,” she explained. “A lot of families, particularly low income families, do not have those resources at home, and we want to be the ones that provide those resources and the tools to really set up these families and the children for success in school.”
“It’s all creating that love of reading, the love of books, and a literacy-rich environment at home. In this way when they get into school they’re ready to go.”
The Always Dream Foundation works with seven Hawaii public schools and is launching what Yamaguchi calls “Version 2.0” this week.
“It’s a really exciting time; 10 thousand students have already gone through our reading program, and we’re looking to double that in half the amount of time coming up in the future,” Yamaguchi said. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re really excited with the work, and we really want to go where these resources are needed.”
Although Yamaguchi was born and raised in California she has ancestral ties to the islands. Her grandfather, Tatsuichi Yamaguchi, came to Hawaii from Japan and lived on the Big Island for several years before moving to the mainland.
“To be out here in Hawaii is really special to me,” Yamaguchi said. “It feels like a second home, and I always try to find some way to call myself a kama‘aina.”
Tickets for the ice rink and festival will go on sale in October at meethawaii.com; prices have not yet been announced.
WINTER WISHES — A HOLIDAY FESTIVAL
Where: Hawai‘i Convention Center
When: Opens Nov. 29; continues 4-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-10 pm Fridays, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 24.
Cost: ticket price pending; Convention Center parking, $10