International Hula Conference

Culture is not only part of our island heritage, it’s a major reason visitors come to Hawaii.

And there’s probably no more cherished, and unique, element of our culture than the hula. The granddaddy of them all is April’s Merrie Monarch Festival. When I lived on the Big Island in the 1980s, I could see then how hula’s popularity and prestige were surging and how it attracted halau and fans from all over the world.

Bringing together residents and visitors to perpetuate the hula is the goal of the sixth annual International Waikiki Hula Conference, scheduled for May 11-13 at Hawaii Convention Center.

The conference, sponsored by the Waikiki Improvement Association since 2007, was founded to recognize the importance of hula to Hawaii and stimulate interest among visitors who identify Hawaiian culture as a key reason for vacationing in Hawaii. I supported this event as mayor of Honolulu and continue to believe in its importance as a forum for exchange and communication.

Conference attendees will enjoy a rare opportunity to learn hula from 40 of Hawaii’s most revered kumu hula and cultural practitioners.

New kumu hula to the conference this year are Ed Collier of Halau ‘O Na Pua Kukui and Lilinoe Lindsey of Ka Pa Nani ‘O Lilinoe.

Hula aficionados of all levels can choose from more than 80 workshops and seminars on such diverse topics as implement-making, lei-making, lauhala weaving and, of course, hula.

In keeping with the event’s Lei Day theme, flowers and lei will be the focus of mele (song) and hula, both ancient and modern.

The event also will feature Hawaii’s first international juried quilt competition.

Produced by Hawaiian quilt expert Mary Haunani Cesar, the competition will feature quilts from around the world based on the Hawaiian flower theme. The conference also is partnering with Mele Mei, a series of Hawaiian music events hosted by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts.

One of the most exciting things about the conference is that participants will be able to perform the hula they have learned during 10 ho’ike (exhibition) shows nightly on stages throughout Waikiki, including the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound.

This premier weekend of hula, music and cultural learning is a must for visitors and residents alike. While many kumu hula and halau travel regularly around the world to share hula, the International Waikiki Hula Conference gives participants the opportunity to experience and learn the art of hula from some of the world’s best practitioners and teachers, all under one roof.

The International Waikiki Hula Conference welcomes dancers of all experience levels and backgrounds.

Kama’aina will receive a special rate of $250. Groups of 10 or more also will receive a special rate. For more information, visit waikikihulaconference.com and “like” the International Waikiki Hula Conference on Facebook. The last day to register is, appropriately, Lei Day, May 1, 2012.

Coincidentally, there will be two hula events on the Garden Island:

May Day by the Bay will be held Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Waioli Beach Park The festivities will feature music, hula and workshops.

Later that month, the Kaua’i Polynesian Festival will be held May 24 to 27 at Vidinha Stadium. Sponsored by the Kamanawa Foundation, the four-day event will highlight not only hula but Tahitian, Samoan and Maori dancing as well as offer dance competition, crafts, food and entertainment.

Charity Walk

The 34th annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk is just around the corner. Sponsored by the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association and many partners, the fundraiser takes place each May across the state. Last year, nearly 11,000 walkers raised $1.155 million to benefit local charities. More than $23 million has been raised since the walk’s inception, all of it exclusively for charitable groups in Hawaii.

Kaua’i’s event will take place Saturday, May 12, at 7 a.m. The 2.9-mile walk will begin and end at the Historic County Building. In-between, walkers will proceed along Rice Street, Ho’olako Street, Kapule Highway, Ahukini Road, Palai Street and Umi Street. Contact Denise Wardlow or Julie Pavao, Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, at 827-8726.

I joined Kaua’i chairwoman Wardlow and Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. for the kick-off rally. As usual, there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, and that bodes well for a large turnout for the walk and strong support for the local charities that benefit from the generous donations.

Anyone can participate. Walkers need not be hotel employees or HLTA members. Anyone can join in a morning of fun, food, fabulous entertainment and a little exercise to raise funds for a good cause. Kaua’i has an entry fee of $35 for all walkers, regardless of age. For more information, contact the HLTA at 923-0407 or visit charitywalkhawaii.org or hawaiilodging.org

“Put Your Best Slippah Forward” for a terrific cause and join the Visitor Industry Charity Walk on your island.

MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES

Cheryl Ben Brady

Position: Director of Revenue Strategy
Location: Kaua’i Marriott Resort

Director of Revenue Strategy Cheryl Ben Brady’s knowledge of the visitor market, business acumen and intuition are some of the key reasons Kaua’i Marriott Resort is thriving.

Cheryl works closely with the resort’s clients, maintaining relationships with tour companies, travel agents and others to draw visitors to the Marriott. She helped increase the hotel’s market share by 40 percent despite the tough global economy and even tougher visitor market. Not only are Cheryl’s ties with clients a great asset, but she brings that same energy and spirit to her relationships with co-workers and guests. She helps wherever she can, pitching in to ensure the resort runs smoothly and guests are served.

Cheryl Ben Brady is a strong supporter of Kaua’i Marriott Resort’s sponsored charity events and community projects. Her passions are Kaua’i Food Bank and Visitor Industry Charity Walk, but she can often be found wherever and whenever someone needs a helping hand.

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