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Cook Islands say aloha with dance finale

HONOLULU — While some Cook Islands delegates waited for their upcoming flight on Saturday, they performed once more at Waikiki Beach Walk on Tuesday evening.

The 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture officially ended Sunday, but with only one Hawaiian Airlines flight operating weekly on Saturdays from Honolulu to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, about 50 delegates remained in Hawai‘i. They decided to hold one last performance before their departure.

The event took place at the center plaza of Waikiki Beach Walk and was an “exclusive and extraordinary cultural exchange ceremony between FestPAC island-host nation Hawai‘i and the Cook Islands,” according to a statement.

The Cook Islands delegates originally had stayed at ‘Ohana Waikiki East by Outrigger all throughout FestPAC, and the remaining delegates were able to extend their stay up until Saturday at the same hotel.

Barbara Campbell of Outrigger Waikiki Beach Walk called the event a “grand finale of FestPAC.”

“We want them to perform one last time before they fly back,” Campbell said. “We’ve been hosting the Cook Islands delegates in our hotels, and this is one more opportunity for them to perform one last time.”

She also mentioned that the Cook Islands delegates were offered a table so they could sell the remaining crafts and goods from FestPAC’s Festival Village.

Waikiki Beach Walk normally hosts Ku Ha‘aheo, a live Hawaiian music concert headlined by Blaine Kia and Kalei Kahalewai, every Tuesday.

Kia said Ku Ha‘aheo was asked to host the Cook Islands delegates for a performance Tuesday. The duo would act as hosts, performing first and then inviting the Cook Islands delegates to perform.

“We’re using our routine show to host the Cook Islands tonight,” Kia said. “We perform first as the host, and then we invite them to perform in reciprocation.”

According to representatives at Waikiki Beach Walk, this performance and event had been planned since May 27.

Kate Richards, a 24-year-old tourist from San Francisco staying in Waikiki, shared her experience watching heritage dance performances at Waikiki Beach Walk and music performances at Kani Ka Pila Grille.

“We arrived in Honolulu last Wednesday (June 12) and had no idea there was a big festival happening. We saw all these performances around Waikiki and decided to watch some of them,” Richards said.

This is Richards’ third trip to Hawai‘i, and she expressed her love for the state’s diversity and cultural embrace. She is currently on summer vacation with three college friends.

“We were really bummed that we came right when FestPAC was ending, so it’s nice that we get to experience one of these cultural performances one more time, because we leave tomorrow morning,” she said.

Teanaroa Paka Worthington, a Cook Islander, said he was excited to be able to showcase his culture one more time before they leave for home.

“FestPAC 2024 was an absolute success,” he said.

While Worthington acknowledged several logistical problems and hiccups along the way, he said, “That’s just par for the course for big events like this. Not everything is going to be perfect or work out the way you want it to. But the bottom line is that it was an absolute success.”

He said it was significant to see that the energy was not only coming from Hawai‘i, but from all the delegates around Oceania.

“You can see the mana, the spirit and the authenticity that we bring to every performance and commitment — the 110 percent effort we put into every song and every drumming,” Worthington said.
Source: The Garden Island

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