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Kalo Festival returns

Waipa Foundation’s Kalo Festival is just around the corner, and is here for the first time since the April 2018 floods.

The gathering is 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in Waipa, with the purpose of celebrating kalo (taro) and the community.

Stacy Sproat-Beck, executive director of the Waipa Foundation, takes the purpose behind her foundation and that of the Kalo Festival to heart. She says it’s about bringing people together and ensuring that people know where their food comes from. It’s also about helping the community.

“It provides a great opportunity for us to celebrate our local crops and provide a way for shopping for our local products, and the extra revenues earned help to support our work at Waipa,” she said.

Vendor Kawaihau Torio is looking forward to his fourth time at the festival, and says that the foundation has been there for him since day one.

Torio is the owner of Po‘okela Sausage, and he came to Waipa Foundation Wednesday to drop off some goods in preparation for the festival.

Speaking of being there for the community, you could say that Torio knows all about that as a business owner.

“Waipa has been helpful for our business. They helped start our company with a grant, and they helped to get us off the ground,” he said.

Torio will be selling Kauai-made sausages and hot dogs, including mango and cheddar brats and Luau Dogs, which are all-Kauai-beef hot dogs.

Waipa Foundation crew members are at the ground zero of “operation kalo festival,” with the purpose to prepare and make this Sunday’s festival a reality. Crew members Kaipo Like, Kirstie Daly and Chris Zauner prepared kalo for the festival.

Like points out that the foundation keeps the price of taro as low as it can, which he says is usually lower than what it sells for in markets. Their bags of taro sell for $5 a pound.

Daly and Zauner sprayed down kalo roots Wednesday after they had cut and separated from the kalo plant. The tops of the plant are set aside to be reused for planting in the fields.

Around 250 pounds of kalo will be going to the festival for attendees to use to make poi at the poi-pounding booth, or kui ai area. The rest of the kalo was saved to make into poi at Poi Day at Waipa Foundation, which is every Thursday.

Meanwhile, things are heating up just nicely in the kitchen, as JoAnne Kaona and Kari Shozuya add the last of the ingredients to a batch of raw kalo. Included within is a mix of coconut milk, brown sugar, and honey to make kulolo for the festival.

The Kalo Festival started 10 years ago, and Sproat-Beck described the festival-preparation process, whether it be at the Mango Festival or Kalo Festival, as being like a “well-oiled machine.” Everything is underway and moving smoothly toward getting the festival on board and ready for this weekend.

Just to name a few of the festivities that will be happening on Sunday, there will be local craft and artisan vendors, food vendors, apparel, as well as home décor items and jewelry for sale. Activities for attendees include poi-pounding, wood-carving, lauhala-weaving, and konane, the Hawaiian game similar to checkers. There will also be a waterslide.

Kalo is well-known as a highly valued carbohydrate and staple in Hawaii, though there is much more to the importance of kalo than just in terms of its flavor and nutritional value.

Kauai produces over 70% of the taro grown in the state, with most of the kalo produced coming from the North Shore, including the Hanalei taro fields as well as Waipa Foundation.

“The Kalo Festival is about celebrating kalo, and celebrating preparing kalo and the farmers,” said Like. “It’s for the next generation, so the kids can learn how to grow it and eat it, and eat sour poi, too.” He laughs, mentioning how some people don’t like the flavor of sour poi, but thinks that kids these days should at least learn to appreciate it and give it a try.

Daly reflects on her work at Waipa Foundation and farming locally in general and what it means to her: “I like to do this work because I think it’s important to continue to feed ourselves from the land, we don’t want to forget the value of the work that goes into the growing process and bringing food to the table.”

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Monique Rowan is a Wainiha resident and lifelong North Shore resident who writes periodically for The Garden Island.
Source: The Garden Island

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