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Chrysanthemum Festival set for Dec. 3 in Wailuku

By Staff | Dec 1, 2016

This year’s contestants are (from left) Renee Matsuda, Alexa Nagai and Jennea Nagura. PHOTOS BY NAGAMINE PHOTO STUDIO.

WAILUKU – Teens from three Maui high schools are vying for the crown of the 64th Chrysanthemum Festival, a Japanese cultural event that raises funds for scholarships and the historical preservation programs of the sponsor, Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans.

The event will be held on Dec. 3 at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku. Exhibits and entertainment will be offered at 4:30 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. and the program at 7 p.m.

Admission to the festival is free. Tickets for the dinner cost $15.

The queen of the festival is the contestant who raises the most money through ticket sales.

This year’s contestants are:

Renee Matsuda, 15, of Kahului, a junior at Maui High School and the daughter of Eric and Annette Matsuda.

Alexa Nagai, 17, of Wailuku, a senior at Henry Perrine Baldwin High School and the daughter of Stephanie Nagai and Gary Nagai.

Jennea Nagura, 16, of Pukalani, a junior at King Kekaulike High School and the daughter of Rick and Kristen Nagura.

For ticket or event information, or to contribute to a contestant’s efforts, call Leonard Oka at 249-2163 or 385-7670.

Oka is president of Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans. He is co-chairing the event with Gary Nakama, a past president of the group.

Proceeds support the Sons and Daughters’ historical preservation projects, which are done for the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, and annual scholarships.

This year, $1,000 scholarships were awarded to ten graduates of high schools on Maui.

The Chrysanthemum Festival includes the coronation of the queen. During this segment, the court members and their escorts perform a choreographed dance. They prepared for this performance at weekly sessions with ballroom dance instructors Jeffrey and Lydia Dela Cruz.

Contestants also represent the Sons and Daughters and the NVMC at various events throughout the year.

The annual event was created as the Chrysanthemum Ball, a ballroom-dance affair, by the Maui AJA Veterans Inc. as a way to fund its community service in areas such as youth sports and scholarships.

AJA stands for Americans of Japanese Ancestry; the group was formed as veterans returned from Europe and the Asia-Pacific areas after World War II.

In 2007, the event name was changed to Chrysanthemum Festival to reflect its focus on Japanese culture.

In 2008, Maui AJA Veterans Inc. turned the event over to Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans.

The two groups partnered to continue the veterans’ longstanding scholarship program.

The Maui AJA Veterans Inc. disbanded this year due to aging and declining membership.

Nisei refers to the second generation of AJAs.