NAPILI - The Napili Kai Foundation is celebrating its Golden Anniversary with a week of festivities, mele, dance, good "grindz" and plenty of fun commencing Tuesday, April 25.
The theme of the event is "Ku'u Pua Mae'ole" (Never Fading Flower).
It's the longest-running weekly children's hula show in the State of Hawaii, and the only one of its kind that also offers higher education scholarships to its graduates.
Napili Kai Foundation keiki posed for this photo last year.
But more than that, its legacy exemplifies the ancient Hawaiian value of 'ohana (family).
And, the Napili Kai Foundation (NKF), from its inception in 1966, is a celebration of 'ohana, in every sense of the word.
The current president of the foundation, Lou Ross, provided background information about its history.
"This started when the Napili Kai Beach Resort just opened and the employees would bring their kids to dance hula for fun. One of the guests said, 'You don't want to lose this. This is something you want to continue.' So they went and formed the NKF with (legendary West Side kumu hula) Aunty Emma Sharpe."
The first board included Dorothy Millar, president; Lani Bancaco, vice president; Wilma Stegmuller, secretary/treasurer; and Directors Emma K. Sharpe, Sarah Amaral and Mrs. Herman Kaaihue.
"Ka ho'omau'ana I ka ho'olina mo'aukala Hawai'i ma o na pua o Maui" is the foundation's mission (to perpetuate the cultural legacy of Hawaii through the children of Maui).
"The children, ages 6-18, are taught the dances, language, history and arts and crafts of Polynesia. Since hula is an important part of Hawaiian culture, they are trained by kumu hula and perform a live, public show every Tuesday at the Napili Kai Beach Resort," Ross added.
"It's such a great thing, her (Sharpe's) grand niece, (K. Holoaumoku Ralar, Kathy Ralar) stepped in 30-something years ago, and she is still with us doing a fabulous job for the kids," Ross advised.
And, for the 57-year-old kumu hula, it's a family affair.
Ralar's daughter, 34-year-old Nohealani Ralar, is a graduate of the NKF and Lahainaluna High School (Class of 2000). She is currently the parent liaison serving on the NKF Board of Directors.
Her 13-year-old granddaughter, Namahina Holoaumoku Naniukukulakilaopuamana Kawabata, dances for the foundation. Her husband, Edsel N. Ralar Sr., plays the ukulele for the foundation. Her son, Edsel Ralar Jr., also a graduate of the NKF, is the group's bass player.
Kumu Hula Ralar described the relationship the children of the foundation have with each other: "The children spend eight to ten years together in this organization. It is very much like a family. The children dance together, learn together and have fun together."
Her daughter is heartfelt about her experience with the NKF.
"Since my childhood, my mom took the time to instill in me the beauty of hula. I was taught hula as a way of life; its beauty is not just an expressive dance on stage. Nor was it an extracurricular activity to do after school. It was just as important as learning to walk, talk, play and breathe. Learning all of this and having the privilege to grow up in the Napili Kai Foundation has added to my life in ways that continue to benefit me and my 'ohana," she said.
"So when I became a mom to my Namahina, I knew she would learn hula. Having her learn the heritage she has been born into and to be a part of creating (adding) to that story of history is simply beautiful. I hope to instill those same values to my Namahina and the experience I had with Napili Kai Foundation."
Nohealani co-chairs the 50th Anniversary celebration with Daryl Fujiwara, also a graduate of the NKF.
Fujiwara wrote and received a $10,000 grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority for the week's lineup of celebratory festivities commencing Tuesday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m. with the regular Napili Kai Foundation Show - "but it will be a little spruced up," Ross said.
The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children six to 12 and free for children under six.
All festivities during the week will be held at the Napili Kai Beach Resort Aloha Pavillion.
On Wednesday, April 26, slack key master George Kahumoku Jr. will take the stage with special guest Sonny Lim. Dinner will be served, beginning at 5 p.m., and show doors open at 6:45 p.m. The cost of the dinner and show is $95; and, for the show only, it's $37.99/$45.
Friday night from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. is the Aloha Reception. It features a pupu party catered by Nalu Grindz and singer Natalie A'i Kamauu. The cover for this no-host bar event is $30.
The entertainment for the 50th Anniversary Dinner is Ikaika Blackburn and special guests. The dinner will be catered by Teppanyaki 2 Go! The cost for the no-host bar-dinner and entertainment is $30. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Sunday is Brunch Bingo day. Commencing at 9 a.m., Chef Brandon Fujiwara of Aloha Mixed Plate will be serving up the brunch, and the entertainment will be provided by Na Pua O Kapi'olani Hula Studio and Kaumakawaiwa Kanakaole and Shawn Pimentel. The cost is $30.
The public is invited to attend all the events.
Sara Lo is the president of the NKF parents' group, Hui Makua, and also serves on the 50th Anniversary Committee.
She has assembled an impressive list of island event sponsors, including Williams & Associates; Napili Sunset Beach Resort; Fidelity National Title & Escrow of Hawaii; Mihaela Stoops, Realtor Broker; and, of course, Napili Kai Beach Resort.
"There is still time to be a sponsor," she advised.
There will be a Silent Auction on Saturday night, April 29, and "Opportunity Drawings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Lo said.
"Everyone is encouraged to participate in the fun! Prizes for Silent Auction and Opportunity Drawings vary from hotel (stays), activities (snorkel trip), restaurants (Sea House) and services (massage)," Loa added.
Janice Studwell is the current vice president of the Napili Kai Foundation. She takes her responsibility seriously.
"The foundation's mission, to perpetuate the cultural legacy of Hawaii through its children, is the very essence of the aloha spirit. Our keiki learn all aspects of their rich heritage and the importance of preserving and sharing that heritage with future generations. It is our responsibility to help them achieve that goal," she said.
For tickets or more information, call (808) 280-8098.