Hawai‘i’s Largest Ethnic Festival is Moving to the Hawai‘i Convention Center
Gregg Kakesako

Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

The birth of the state’s largest ethnic festival — the Okinawan Festival — on Labor Day weekend can be traced to 1980 and a concerted effort by a group of Sansei Uchinanchu leaders to perpetuate and share the Okinawan culture of their ancestral homeland with the larger Hawai‘i community. It began with their participation in a life-changing tour to Okinawa in 1980.

Thirty-five years after that first festival, mother nature and other forces have prompted the festival’s sponsor, the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, to reassess. After staging the festival at Kapi‘olani Park since 1990, this year’s festival will move indoors, to the Hawai‘i Convention Center for the next three years. The festival will still be held over the Labor Day weekend, which this year falls on Sept. 1 and 2.


Courtney Takara, who, at 31, is the youngest president to lead the HUOA, said the volunteer electricians, plumbers and construction workers required to install the festival’s temporary infrastructure has diminished over the years. Without these skilled volunteers, the association would have to pay for the work, resulting in additional costs, Takara said.

She acknowledged that “an outdoor festival atmosphere is hard to recreate indoors,” but said she hopes the move to the Hawai‘i Convention Center will give families “the opportunity to start new traditions.”

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