A Brief History
It's hard to imagine the many years have passed since one of Hawaii's most successful ethnic celebrations - the Okinawan Festival - made its debut at Ala Moana Park's McCoy Pavilion. Who could have imagined back then that the event would grow to attract over 50,000 people from all over the world, involve more than 2,000 volunteers, and be staged at the Hawaii Convention Center?
PRESENTED BY THE HAWAII UNITED OKINAWA ASSOCIATION
The Hawaii United Okinawa Association is the umbrella organization for 50 locality clubs whose members are descendants of Okinawan immigrants, most of whom settled in Hawaii in the early 1900s. The member clubs of HUOA are comprised of families whose ancestors immigrated to Hawaii from the same region in Okinawa.
HUOA thus plays an important role in fostering and sharing Okinawan ethnic identity. Today, membership through the member clubs total over 40,000. The member clubs are organized by shi (city), cho (township), son (rural township) and aza (small village). HUOA annually runs the Okinawan Festival, a two day ethnic cultural festival with uniquely Okinawan foods, music performances and cultural education.
A Brief History
It's hard to believe that so many years have passed since one of Hawaii's most successful ethnic celebrations - the Okinawan Festival. Since its debut at Ala Moana Park's McCoy Pavilion, who could have imagined back then that the event would grow to attract over 65,000 people from all over the world, involve more than two thousand volunteers, and be staged at the Hawaii Convention Center?
But like so many aspects of the Okinawan experience in Hawaii, it is from knowing the humble beginnings of this wonderful cultural event that we come to fully appreciate it.
The Okinawan Festival grew out of a cultural program initiated and organized by Hui O Laulima, an Okinawan women's group. Their goal was to share the Okinawan culture with the public through exhibitions and demonstrations. Hui O Laulima's first "Cultural Jubilee" was held at the Ala Moana Hotel in 1971. It was co-sponsored by the United Okinawan Association (since renamed the Hawaii United Okinawa Association).
During the planning, word of the jubilee filtered back to Okinawa. The government quickly assembled a troupe of Okinawan dance masters to perform in Hawaii at the Farrington High School Auditorium. The performance was presented in conjunction with the jubilee.
Hui O Laulima and the UOA continued their joint sponsorship of the cultural jubilee until 1982, when the desire to reach out to the broader local community and to involve more UOA clubs and their members resulted in the birth of the Okinawan Festival.
The first Okinawan Festival was held in Hawaii in 1982 at McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana Park. Each year brought growth and new programs. By 1985, the Festival had outgrown McCoy Pavilion, so it was moved to a bigger venue, Thomas Square and the Honolulu Academy of Arts, before moving once again in 1990 to Kapiolani Park, where the festival would grow to become one of the largest ethnic festivals in the State of Hawaii. In 2018, the decision was made to move the Okinawa Festival to the Hawaii Convention Center. Weather and decreasing manpower to build the festival infrastructure were the impetus for looking to move the festival to a new location. Moving the festival indoors will provide the opportunity to showcase new activities and exhibits and will provide a comfortable environment for all our attendees - from babies to senior citizens - who attend our festival.
Attracting more than 50,000 visitors annually, the Okinawan Festival has become the premier annual event of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. Proceeds from the Festival support the HUOA's mission of preserving, promoting and sharing the Okinawan culture.