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Hanapepe Heritage Media Center opens Friday

Tiffany Gampong, the social-media manager and all-around go-to girl at the Storybook Theatre of Hawai‘i, said she wasn’t aware that the former U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga’s 105th birthday coincides with the new Heritage Media Center at the Storybook Theatre this upcoming Friday.

“I grew up in the area right behind the Hanapepe Park,” Gampong said, browsing through the special exhibit honoring Sparky. “But I didn’t know the Matsunaga family or the senator.”

The late Matsunaga was a Kaua‘i native.

A limited number of tickets are still available online through Eventbrite at: for the event that will run from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and features a special treat, sake-sipping and kampai (“cheers,” or, literally, “empty your glasses”) of sake through the efforts of World Sake that brought in the drink from Matsunaga’s home prefecture of Hiroshima.

The Friday event will adhere to current COVID-19 rules for health and safety, including wearing of face masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing.

“We want Sparky’s statue to be laden with lei,” said Mark Jeffers, director of the Storybook Theatre. “People can stroll through Sparky’s Garden and enjoy the special entertainment of Michael Barretto &Friends, and Cindy Combs from 6:30 p.m. after the kampai, which should happen around 6 p.m.”

Gampong will be behind the boards when the Heritage Media Center unveils the new podcast, “Sparky Would Go,” a talk with kumu Sabra Kauka and the Nualolo ‘Ohana in the specially-created viewing theater.

Other facets of the Heritage Media Center include the replication of a plantation-era kitchen — the most important room of the house, using items loaned by the community and Gerald Hirata.

The tour moves to the cultural area, where keiki are able to have hands-on activities with several make-it-and-take-it items, and an exhibit of culturally historic pohaku on loan from the Kaua‘i Museum.

An interactive contest, this one in pidgin English, keeps people moving through the Matsunaga exhibit, with artifacts provided by the late senator’s family, including relatives who still live in Hanapepe.

“Gerald Hirata of the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple will also be on hand with special clothing from the Sen. Spark Matsunaga era so people can put them on for a photo at the statue,” Jeffers said, passing the special oral history setup in the media center. “Gerald is also full of stories of the plantation days. We only recently recorded Mamo Kaneshiro during the time we were supposed to have the Koloa Plantation Days.”

There is a bronze statue of Matsunaga in the theatre’s Peace Garden.

The talk of the past triggered Gampong’s memories of life in Hanapepe during the time she was growing up.

“We and the old-timers would play in front of the Banana Patch art studios — in those days, it was a pool hall,” Gampong said. “Even this Storybook Theatre building. I remember how it was not so pretty then. The goal of the Heritage Media Center is to educate the younger generation on just how far we’ve come from where we were.”


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer can be reached at 245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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