The popular Chrysanthemum Festival has been canceled for the winter. The Maui Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans, which has run the Valley Isle festival annually since 2008, made this announcement on Aug. 5.
Canceled activities include community appearances featuring Maui high schools’ very talented female contestants, who normally would have vied for the titles of Festival Queen and her Court.
Maui Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans spokesperson, Roy Tanaka, gave coronavirus-related public-health concerns as the driving factor behind the organization’s choice to not hold the 68th festival. Tanaka stated in a press release, “In addition to concern for the safety of all involved,” such as festival-contracted “entertainers, exhibitors, caterer[s] and other participants,” the organization considered the well-being of the contestants themselves.
“Festival organizers don’t want to add to the uncertainties of the girls’ (high-) school year,” he explained, adding that “…A feature of the festival is the choreographed dances performed by the queen, her court and their escorts, which requires several weeks of weekly instruction and practice. Safety for the instructors is also a factor.”
The Chrysanthemum Festival, which crowns its Queen based on which contestant sells the most tickets, typically funds Japanese American community efforts, such as historic preservation projects with the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, as well as 10 annual scholarships of $1,000 each for graduates of Maui high schools.
Historically, when the original group running this event series, the Maui AJA Veterans, created it in 1952, it organized a ballroom-dance-centered “Chrysanthemum Ball.” The veterans group, founded in 1947 by Nisei soldiers who had returned from combat in the European and Pacific-Asian theaters of World War II, strove to create activities to enhance Japanese community participation in everyday American life in the islands.
[For more on the Maui AJA Veterans’ 70 years of community service in general, see the Sept. 17, 2016, Hawai‘i Herald article by David Fukuda, available to digital subscribers here. ]
The Chrysanthemum Ball was once a swanky affair to raise community money for Nikkei participants in youth sports and college scholarships. In 2007, the Maui AJA Veterans modernized the festival by rebranding it with its current “Festival” rather than “Ball” label. A year later, the Maui AJA Veterans passed to the Maui Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans its legacy of organizing these high-profile events that traditionally have celebrated Japanese culture — as well as shared some of its scholarship moneys with this successor group. The Maui AJA Veterans eventually disbanded in 2016 due to shrinking membership and the aging of its members.
The next series of Chrysanthemum Festival events is being planned for 2021, Tanaka assured fans of the Festival and its contestants.