BREMERTON — Imagine a gathering of various peoples from the Pacific islands, joined together to take part in food, dance and fun for the entire family in a single celebration of past, present and future.
Siope Kivaha, originally from the island nation of Tonga, had that vision when he first brought the Pacific Islander Festival to Bremerton’s Evergreen Park last year. He wanted to introduce others to his culture, and wanted to share the different cultures of the Pacific islands as well.
“They got the same experience as back on the island, but a lot more,” Kivaha said. “We had eight different cultures to celebrate with. We have a big community of Polynesians in Kitsap County, but we haven’t seen an event to celebrate it.”
That notion of a festival celebrating Pacific island cultures last year packed the park.
As of 10 a.m. Aug. 22, more than 7,000 Facebook shares and 2,000 confirmed attendees are planning to come to the second Pacific Islander Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 26.
The family fun event, free to the public, will again take place at the Bremerton Boardwalk Waterfront, 106 Washington Ave. It will highlight the various food, music, and entertainment of the Pacific islands.
“This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of bringing our cultures to Kitsap County,” event promoter Michelle Paulino said.
“We have a huge following. We had more than 3,000 attendees last year.”
Paulino, originally from Guam, moved to Washington in 1985. Though she’s more than 5,000 miles from home, she said Kitsap’s Pacific Islander Festival is an opportunity for her and others to connect to her culture.
“Not everyone gets to fly to Hawaii or Guam or Samoa,” she said. “For a lot of the islanders who don’t have the chance to go back home, it’s a nice feeling to know we get to have a connection here.
“It’s a way to experience the island ways and cultures through dance, food and family entertainment,” she added. “I feel that it’s a great way for someone to get to know the different island cultures right in our own backyard.”
Dancers, including members of Guma Imahe, a Tacoma-based Guamanian dance group welcomed back to Guam to perform in the prestigious Pacific Festival last year, will make an appearance in Bremerton. Members will dance their traditional dances and will be available to converse with attendees after their performances.
Halau ’O Kealaakua Naniloa Manaoakamai and Ke Liko A’e O Lei Lehua E Kapuaokalani will also perform traditional dances at the festival.
This year, event coordinators say, come hungry. More food vendors are expected, bringing beloved island favorites such as lumpia, empanadas, shaved ice, and various other popular Philippine, Hawaiian and Chamorro dishes to enjoy.
Some vendors confirmed to be at the event are Amazil Chamorro Chow, Hood Famous Bakeshop, Sno Ryder Shaved Ice, and the Maui-based Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade — traveling from their new Kirkland location — to bring a taste of the islands to Kitsap.
In addition to fabulous foods, a variety of cultural jewelry, clothing and novelties vendors will be on hand, including PST Gear, Grounded, Kiss of Polynesia, and Lanya Sa Pika Este.
An assortment of bands — reggae, traditional and DJs — will rock the day into night.
“This event really opened my eyes to the number of people who show interest in our culture and wanted to be apart of it,” Paulino said.
“This Pacific Islanders Festival is helping to put Bremerton on the map.”
But the event isn’t just for Pacific Islanders. All are welcome to take part in the celebration of culture past and present. While Paulino said a vast majority of attendees last year were Pacific Islanders, many attendees were non-islanders who have visited the islands and fell in love with the culture.
“These people have gotten a taste of the islands and they want to go back,” she said. “They love and embrace the culture.”
For more information on Kitsap’s Pacific Islander Festival, visit its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/kitsapcountypacific islandersfestival or follow @islandherpromotions (that’s islander with an “h”) on Instagram.
“My goal was to share the aloha,” Kivaha said. “It’s all getting together, celebrating and having fun — all under one sun.”
— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.