Karleen Chinen

This year’s Okinawan Festival is truly a gutsy endeavor — as was the move to Kapi‘olani Park back in 1990. No one knew for certain whether it would take. Or flop. But as most of us know, if we don’t try, we’ll never know. And that is why the leadership and member-clubs of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association decided to move their biggest outreach event of the year to the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

There will be some aspects of this year’s festival that you’ll love — and some that you won’t. An indoor facility cannot replicate the natural ambiance of a park. Unlike Kapi‘olani Park, where the festival was spread out on the Waikïkï end of the park, activities this year will be on two floors of the Hawai‘i Convention Center — the ground floor for the entertainment, food booths and some shopping opportunities, and the third floor — “The Mura” — for the cultural activities.

Over the years, the summertime heat and humidity had become increasingly unbearable. Year after year, I saw ambulances turning into the park and driving off to emergency rooms with people — a good number of them elderly — suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. That is dangerous.

So, personally, I’m looking forward to the air-conditioned Hawai‘i Convention Center; the extra seating; the flat and even flooring; the escalators and elevators; and the many more — and cleaner — restrooms. You have a few weeks to read through this, the Herald’s annual Okinawan Festival issue, and plan out your visit to the Okinawan Festival . . . at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

“THE FESTIVAL” ON THE EXHIBIT FLOOR

• Entertainment (main stage). Seating for 600 will be provided to watch the various performances throughout the day: odori (dance), koto, sanshin, karate and more. Eisä and taiko clubs are also in the program line-up, along with Okinawan line dancing and special performing artists from Okinawa.

• Opening Ceremony Parade. One of the most impressive sights of the Okinawan Festival is the opening ceremony parade on Saturday morning. It’ll make your heart swell with pride. The parade will begin at 10:35 a.m. Marchers will proudly carry the colorful banners of the HUOA’s 50 member-clubs into the room. They will be accompanied to the main stage by paranku (small hand-held drum) players, shishimai (Okinawan lion dance) and chondara (Okinawan clown-like characters who double as parade marshals).

Machi-Gwa (Country Store). Bring your reusable shopping bags and fill them with fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits and other delicious treats to eat! Enjoy a refreshing mason jar of plantation tea as you browse. Support our local farmers and buy local!

Hanagi Machi Gwa (Plants). Choose from a wide selection of potted plants and flowers that will be available for purchase, such as orchids, water lilies, succulents, vegetables and fruits. Find the perfect addition to your houseplant collection and outdoor garden.

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