The Honolulu Festival in Waikiki is once again being canceled as a safety precaution to help prevent a surge of COVID-19 among Hawaii residents and visitors, its board of directors announced today in a news release.
It is the third year in a row that the annual festival — originally scheduled for March 11 to 13 — is being canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, the festival had been held every year from 1995 through 2019.
“Our board of directors decided that trying to push forward with the Honolulu Festival next March would be unwise considering the ongoing high number of COVID delta variant cases occurring globally this winter, coupled by the sudden rise of the omicron variant and the uncertainty of its effects on people’s health,” said Honolulu Festival Foundation President Hiroyuki “Keith” Kitagawa in a news release. “No one is more disappointed about having to cancel the 2022 Festival than our board of directors, but this is the appropriate decision to make for the correct reasons, especially now that the omicron variant has been detected in Hawaii.”
The Hawaii Department of Health confirmed the first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the state last Thursday in an Oahu resident with no history of travel.
Since then, two more cases have been confirmed in Oahu residents, also with no history of travel outside of the state, while another eight specimens are being sequenced.
Kitagawa said the board’s top priority was doing its part to support the public’s health and well-being, and that staging the festival takes many months of planning and logistics, along with a tremendous amount of work by dozens of dedicated volunteers.
“Asking everyone to keep going forward and then canceling the Festival at a later date would be disrespectful to their service,” he said in his statement.
In its 27-year history, the Honolulu Festival has drawn thousands of visitors from throughout the Pacific Rim, mostly from Japan, but also from numerous other countries and the U.S. mainland.
More than 100 groups share their culture through music, dance and arts in free performances at the Hawaii Convention Center and other venues such as the International Market Place — all in the spirit of their celebrating cultural and ethnic ties,
The festival also features the Waikiki Grand Parade and Nagaoka Fireworks Show, which attract thousands of residents and visitors.
Festival organizers said these crowded situations would make it difficult to manage safe distancing guidelines.
Festival activities over past years have been free and open to the public with support provided by the Honolulu Festival Foundation, the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu, the state, City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii Tourism Authorityand numerous corporate sponsors.