Paige Maki Nagahama was crowned queen of the 65th Chrysanthemum Festival, which was held Dec. 2 at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku, Maui. The annual fundraising event is sponsored by Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans and co-sponsored by the County of Maui.
Nagahama, 17, of Wailuku, is the daughter of Paula Diep and Hank Rapoza. She is a senior at Seabury Hall. Rounding out her court are princesses Jaelynn Nobriga, 17, of Kahului, a senior at Kamehameha Schools Maui and the daughter of James “Jay” Nobriga and Wendy Nobriga; Makaylen Tadeo, 16, a junior at King Kekaulike High School and the daughter of Bobbie-Jo Moniz-Tadeo and Ricardo Tadeo Jr.; Kristi Echiverri, 17, of Kahului, a senior at Maui High School and the daughter of Laura and Lucky Echiverri; and Sokha Furumoto, 16, of Hä‘iku, a junior at St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School and the daughter of Laurie and Wesley Furumoto.
The queen is the contestant who raises the most money for the Maui Sons and Daughters through donations and ticket sales to the event. The contestants will represent the MSDNV and the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center at various events throughout the year.
The festival was originally created as the Chrysanthemum Ball by the Maui AJA Veterans Inc. as a way to fund its community service in areas such as youth sports and scholarships. The veterans club was formed as soldiers returned from Europe and the Asia-Pacific areas after World War II. In 2007, the event name was changed to Chrysanthemum Festival to reflect its focus on Japanese culture. Festival proceeds fund scholarships and MSDNV’s historical preservation projects, which are done with the NVMC.
An essay contest was part of the festival activities. This year’s topic was “Shikata ga nai,” which refers to acceptance of fate and circumstances that cannot be helped.
The essays addressed each writer’s understanding of the concept of “shikata ga nai,” how it played a role in the lives of Nisei men as they entered and fought in World War II and how it could be a useful value to adopt in the writer’s life.
The winners were Princess Jaelynn Nobriga for the girls’ category and Kai Iinuma Nakaaki, the queen’s escort, for the boys’ category. They were awarded cash prizes.
Maui Sons and Daughter of the Nisei Veterans president Leonard Oka noted that the research that contestants and escorts do for the essays, and that the girls do in preparing their sponsorship solicitation letters, can help them gain “knowledge and appreciation for the accomplishments of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion (the Japanese American military unit that performed vital construction duty on O‘ahu during the war) and the Military Intelligence Service.”
The festival traditions include a ballroom dance by the contestants and their escorts, as the original Chrysanthemum Ball was modeled after a ballroom dance affair.
The other contestants’ escorts were Logan Cabanilla-Aricayos (Princess Jaelynn), Kawika Fernandez (Princess Kristi), Caleb Perreira (Princess Sokha) and John Williamson (Princess Makaylen).
In addition to the ballroom dance, each contestant is escorted by a boy who holds a chochin (Japanese lantern) to light the contestant’s path as she makes her entrance at the festival, and a flower girl who presents her with a bouquet after the coronation.
The chochin holders were Trey Akin, Jake Corden-DeCoite, Nathan Domingo, Davin Giron and Kili Ting. The flower girls were Loli Butcher, Kami Echiverri, Amber Minobe-Nacua, Mahinatea Nobriga and Oto Wada.
The festival opened with odori dancing, which was open to everyone who attended. Cultural exhibits and demonstrations included calligraphy by the Rev. Shinkai Murakami of Wailuku Hongwanji Mission, mini flower arrangements by the Mokichi Okada Association, Japanese games provided by the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui and an activity table staffed by the King Kekaulike High School Japanese Club. Entertainment included classical Japanese dances by students of Matsu Dai Mitsu Yae and karaoke singers Wendee Kokubun and Yumi Takedatsu.