The annual Festivals of Aloha celebration welcomes everyone to experience the true meaning of “aloha.”
You’ve probably heard the remark while on your flight here to Maui. Or perhaps you have seen the gesture in a lei greeting to a loved one. Many people hear or see the word expressed, but few understand its true meaning. A term so endearing, its definition spans meanings from a simple “hello” to an expression of love. This word, often practiced by those living in Hawaii, is known as “aloha.”
In an effort to express what many locals call the “aloha spirit,” the Festivals of Aloha —an over half-a-century-old celebration of Hawaii’s culture for those visiting during the islands’“off-season”—will take place during September and October.
As the Maui County coordinator for the Festivals of Aloha, Wailuku native, Yuki Lei Sugimura, found her role to be a natural fit, experiencing the feeling of “aloha” when she returned to her home island of Maui.
“I lived on the mainland for six years and when I was gone I never realized how beautiful (Maui) is,” says Sugimura. “It’s more than the beaches and the gorgeous Haleakala, it’s the people in Maui who make it so special.”
The people, she says, along with the tight-knit bond of communities within Maui, make the Festival of Aloha events possible. And the planning process helps create a connection of unity among participants.
Starting in Wailuku, the Festivals of Aloha will kick off on Friday, Sept. 5 with a lively First Friday street festival, followed by a month filled with entertainment, local culinary vendors, artisans and crafters, and an annual falsetto competition hosted by legendary musician Richard Ho‘opi‘i.
Culminating the Festivals of Aloha will be a weeklong extravaganza in the quiet, closeknit town of Hana.
“I’m looking forward to my poke plate,” laughs Neil Hasegawa, a consultant for the Festivals of Aloha in Hana, as he describes his favorite part of the event. “Eating is a big part of the culture in Maui. If you haven’t tried any local food, this is the time and place to do it.”
From a parade, live entertainment and
”It’s more than the beaches and the gorgeous Haleakala, it’s the people of Maui who make it so special.”
makahiki games to a fishing tournament and a talent show competition, thousands will gather, says Hasegawa, for the Festivals of Aloha event because of their need to feel and be a part of the community.
“The Festivals of Aloha is about coming together and celebrating each other’s culture,” Hasegawa says. “It’s about inviting people in and sharing our aloha. That’s what it truly is about.” www.festivalsofaloha.com
Maui has long been a preferred vacation spot for Hollywood celebrities and music moguls. However, now it’s also gaining a reputation as a food-and-wine destination, playing host to several high-profile events, including Kā‘anapali Fresh, a three-day festival that features Maui-inspired cuisine paired with local ingredients, and international wines and spirits.
“Like most destinations, food is an integral aspect of the overall visitor experience,” says Maui Visitor and Convention Bureau executive director Terryl Vencl. “Food events help brand individual resorts and also entice travel to Maui. Such is the case for two of our big events—Kā‘anapali Fresh and the Kapalua Wine and Food Festival.”
" Food events help brand resorts and also entice travel to Maui.”
Now in its third year Kā‘anapali Fresh has become the “the most blogged about” culinary destination event on Maui, according to the event’s organizers. Over the course of three days, attendees will be able to take tours of select Maui farms; learn about the evolution of dining in Hawaii; meander through an open-air market at Whalers Village; discover the art of mixology; and graze at the signature Kā‘anapali Fresh Food & Wine Festival. The event will also be part of the seven-day Hawaii Food & Wine Festival (HFWF), playing host to Kā‘anapali Kitchen Stadium Under a Maui Moon.
“Hawaii chefs are lucky,” says Blue Ginger owner/chef Ming Tsai, one of the six master
chefs who will prepare a six-course menu under the Maui moonlight as Kā‘anapali Fresh comes to a climax. “You grow the best produce I’ve ever seen.”
Farmers have long collaborated with Maui chefs, providing them with fresh produce for their kitchens. The relationships deepened in 1991 when a dozen celebrated chefs decided to promote Hawaii produce and seafood through a burgeoning movement known as Hawaii Regional Cuisine (HRC).
“Local produce has improved by leaps and bounds since I first started using them,” says famed chef Roy Yamaguchi, one of the members of the elite 12 founders of HRC. “It’s incredible to see what’s happened in the past 20 years.”
Agriculture has always been integral to Hawaii history and it continues to be an important industry, generating billions of dollars to the state’s annual economy, and directly and indirectly providing thousands of jobs, according to statistics from The National Agricultural Statistics Service, which operates in cooperation with the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.
“It is our responsibility as chefs to support island sustainability through the restaurant industry,” says Ikaika Manaku, executive sous chef at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa and Kā‘anapali O ‘Aha‘aina chef co-chairperson. “We can certainly influence the development of agri-tourism by facilitating supply and demand, [and] creating menu selections that provide our visitors and guests a sampling of the island’s fresh farm ingredients.”
Events like Kā‘anapali Fresh have certainly helped put the spotlight on the talents of the area’s chefs and farmers, but it’s also spawned interest in agri-tourism. Many of the island’s signature experiences now include Maui’s Winery, Surfing Goat Dairy, ‘Ō‘ō Farm, Ali‘i Kula Lavender and Ocean Vodka, among others.
“One of our most popular events is the Maui County Agricultural Festival,” Vencl says. “Maui is fast becoming a destination for ‘foodies.’ Above all, it’s a captivating and lush oasis where seafood is spectacular, tropical ingredients abound and international influences bring flavors—and once again, people—together.”
Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul Park
A visit to Surfing Goat Dairy offers an interactive experience for the entire family. Take a casual tour or reserve a spot for one of its special monthly events. www.surfinggoatdairy.com
‘Ō‘ō Farm offers lunch-and-farm tours, Mondays-Thursdays. www.oofarm.com