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First Annual Waipi’o Kalo Festival Coming Up

The first annual Waipi‘o Kalo Festival will take place on Saturday, June 4, 2016, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Koa‘ekea, near the Waipi‘o Valley Lookout. Presented by the grassroots state-recognized nonprofit, Hā Ola O Waipi‘o Valley, the free event is a tribute to kalo (taro), Waipi’o, and the kupuna and others who live, work, and find inspiration there.

Waipio Valley Taro Festival

The Kalo Festival is designed to be educational as well as entertaining, and will include much that Hawai‘i Island loves: live music and hula, craft vendors, games and great food. In addition, there will be displays and talk story sessions about the region’s rich history, and its significance in Hawaiian culture.

Central to Hawaiian culture, kalo is considered the “older brother” of all Hawaiians. Legend says that a child named Hāloa was born to deities Wakea and Ho‘ohōkūkalani. Hāloa died at birth and was buried in the garden, where soon shoots of kalo plants began to grow. Their next child was named Hāloa in his honor, and to forever acknowledge the familial tie between people and nature.

Waipi‘o was home to many deities and notable ali‘i, and at its peak, the thriving agricultural community may have supported a population as high as 10,000 people. Waipi‘o is also a storied wahi pana, sacred place, site of seven important heiau (temples) including  Pāka‘alana, a pu‘uhonua, “place of refuge.”

The Kalo Festival is designed to be educational as well as entertaining, and will include much that Hawai‘i Island loves: live music and hula, craft vendors, games and great food. In addition, there will be displays and talk story sessions about the region’s rich history, and its significance in Hawaiian culture.

Every aspect of the Kalo Festival is connected to the Valley in some way. Presenters may come from multigenerational kalo farmers on ancestral lands; cultural practitioners appreciate its vast resources; artists and musicians, even chefs, are inspired by Waipi‘o for their creations.

Hands-on ku‘i kalo gives festival-goers a feel for the art of poi pounding, and other cultural activities like lei-making, lau hala and lau niu weaving are available. More competitive attendees can enter the Taro Team Relay, a fun obstacle course with a simulation of a typical taro farmer’s jobs.

On the scholarly side, agricultural exhibits and demonstrations offer a chance to learn about varieties of kalo and how they are cultivated, its preparation as food and nutritional/health benefits. Displays from USDA, DLNR, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), North Hawaii Education and Research Center (NHERC) and others cover a broad range of related topics, from healthy soils, to agro-forestry, the importance of water, and more.

For the foodies, a Kalo Cookoff offers prizes to home chefs who bring their best kalo pupu, main dish or dessert for a friendly competition with prizes. Any part of the kalo plant may be used in the dish. (To enter, please bring at least five portions for judges to taste. Kalo must be an ingredient.) Kalo Contest Winners will be announced after the Relay, and receive a Makana Basket and a Gift Certificate.

In addition, homestyle Hawaiian plate lunches will be available for sale, with kalua pig, laulau, squid lū‘au, chicken long rice, sweet potatoes, fernshoot salad, haupia, kulolo, poke and of course, poi.

Koa‘ekea (the former Rice property is located at 48-5546 Waipi‘o Valley Road, and event parking will be available at Kukuihaele Park, with free shuttles provided. No parking at the Lookout.

The schedule for the day includes:

  • 9 a.m. Gate opens. Opening Pule and Oli at 9:05 a.m.
  • 9:10 a.m. Hālau Na Lei Punahele, Kumu Hula Punahele Andrade
  • 10 a.m. Larry Miller and Jeff Quinn
  • 10:50 a.m. Hālau Kou Lima Nani E, Kumu Hula Iwalani Kalima
  • 11:50 a.m. Sons of Keawe
  • 1-1:50 p.m. Kalo Team Relay/Kalo Cookoff
  • 2 p.m. Rubbah Slippah Productions, Ryan Hiraoka
  • 2:50 p.m. Masoe ‘Ohana
  • 3:50 p.m. Closing Pule and Hawai‘i Aloha

The Kalo Festival is sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the County of Hawai‘i and other generous supporters. Friends of the Future and Pōhāhā I Ka Lani both serve as the fiscal sponsors for this project. For more information about the Kalo Festival, email HaolaoWaipioValley@gmail.com or follow Hā Ola O Waipio Valley on Facebook.

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