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The an­nual Fes­ti­vals of Aloha cel­e­bra­tion wel­comes ev­ery­one to ex­pe­ri­ence the true mean­ing of “aloha.”

Where Maui - - Where Now - BY KRIS­TEN NE­MOTO

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

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