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Kahaialii family members to share culture with Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest

By Staff | Aug 13, 2015

Wilmont Kamaunu Kahaialii (pictured) will perform with Waylen Kauilani Kahaialii and John “JB” Nakulaimaikalani Kahaialii III at the festival.

WEST MAUI – You can take a kanaka out of Hawaii, but you can’t take out the Hawaiian, the love of the aina.

According to Census Bureau stats, there are about 50,000 Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders residing in Washington State. Out of this number, 17,491 people migrated from Hawaii to the Greater Seattle Area between 1995 and 2000.

In 2008, the Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival was formed “to provide a little bit of home for these people,” explained festival founder Angela (Manke) Petersons.

“We started it to create a large festival in a great location – Seattle Center, the home of the Space Needle – to promote and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and share it with the Pacific Northwest community and the Mainland community at large. We also hoped to provide a place of community for those from Hawaii living here,” Petersons added.

From the beginning, the free cultural extravaganza has been a success.

“In our first years,” the Kamehameha Schools graduate from Oahu observed, “we started with one stage of entertainment and about 15 vendors. Over the years, we have grown to having two stages of entertainment, over 50 vendors, multiple educational and hands-on workshops and bringing headlining groups from Hawaii.”

The eighth annual Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival is slated for Sept. 13 at the Seattle Center. The website is enthusiastic about the 2015 celebration:

“We provide excellent opportunities for children and adults to celebrate the richness of living with aloha. The Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival serves to promote, perpetuate and share the Hawaiian culture in the Pacific Northwest by enriching and strengthening the mainland Hawaiian community and celebrating the arts and culture of Hawaii.

“Food, music, hula, keiki korner, workshops, ukulele and a lot of aloha! Enter our raffle, and you could win one of our Hawaiian Getaways! Bring your ohana and friends to Seattle Center for this FREE event! Mahalo and see you then! CHEEE HOOO!”

The list of food vendors is mouth-watering, onolicious: Caf Ohana Grillin’ & Catering, DB Ice Shave, Hawaii’s Donut, Kama’aina Grill, Ohana BBQ, Pac Island Grill, Patrick’s Hawaii Caf, Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max and Seattle Shave Ice.

Festival headliner is Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner Maunalua (Bobby Modero, Jr., Kahi Kaonohi and Richard Gideon).

Three Lahainaluna High School graduates/musicians will perform at the fete as well: Wilmont Kamaunu Kahaialii (Class of 1980), guitar/vocalist; Waylen Kauilani Kahaialii (Class of 1981), ukulele/vocalist; and John “JB” Nakulaimaikalani Kahaialii III (Class of 2000), bass/vocalist.

“The Kahaialiis will be delivering their own brand of island contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music,” Wilmont said.

They will be sharing the stage with Halau Hula O Moani Mokihana, under the direction of Lahainaluna graduate Wade Christopher “Kalanikumupa’a” Kahaialii and his wife, Kuulei Kahaialii.

“The festival serves as the perfect venue for perpetuating, preserving and sharing the essence of Hawaiian culture in the Seattle, Washington area with many of our ohana and extended ohana who migrated from the Hawaiian Islands to the Pacific Northwest in search of new and better opportunities,” Kahu Wilmont observed.

“Over time,” the Sacred Hearts School Hawaiian Studies teacher continued, “many of these transplants begin to miss and yearn for the connections that bind them to these islands and to their ancestors via their hula, mea ai, mele, mookuauhau and ohana.

“The Live Aloha Festival was created, in part, to help fill the need of transplanted Native Hawaiians who had a strong desire to maintain their cultural identity and to share it with their extended and newfound ohana in the Pacific Northwest,” he explained.

Cyndi Aiona Kahaialii, a Kamehameha Schools graduate formerly from Oahu, is Wilmont’s sister-in-law, married to his youngest brother, Kalani, now living in the Seattle area.

She is co-producer of the 2015 fete, and her dedication to the event is sincere.

“The festival is important to Native Hawaiians in the PNW for multiple reasons. Many have moved away from home for jobs, better pay, housing costs, medical care and education. Many families are feeling the struggle to teach their keiki about their culture being so far away from home. Many don’t have the support of family like back home, the aina to visit and/or the kupuna to share the mo’olelo,” she said.

“It is becoming increasingly more difficult for Native Hawaiians to maintain the identify and continue with the cultural practices of being Native Hawaiian. The Live Aloha Festival provides a little piece of home to the Pacific Northwest, and we are committed to keeping the focus on Hawaiian.

“All of our workshops are free to the public, and this year we are featuring kuiki lau (Hawaiian quilting). We also offer lei-making (we have 15,000 orchids flown in), ukulele, keiki hula and ‘olelo Hawaii,” Cyndi noted.

Not only a stage presence, Wilmont is hosting a workshop on genealogy, providing Native Hawaiians with the resources to conduct their own research.

The reason? “I Ka Wa Mamua, I Ka Wa Mahope,” meaning, “the future is tied to the past,” Wilmont said.

Wilmont and brothers are asking for help in funding their cultural trek to Seattle. “If you want to donate to our cause and help us in our huaka’i to connect and share our aloha with our extended ohana in Seattle,” he said, you can donate via the following link, gofund.me/zmzzzk, or call (808) 283-9651 for more information.