The County of Hawaii hosted its second annual World Peace Festival on Oct. 1 at Coconut Island.
More than 1,000 citizens came to soak up the sun, fun, food and aloha spirit on a picture-perfect Saturday. The family-friendly festival featured cultural ceremonies, displays and performances, arts and crafts.
The festival came together as a partnership between Hawaii County and the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association, with support from the International Committee of Artists for Peace.
Local residents know the festival site as Moku Ola, which means “island of life.” According to County Public Information Specialist Desiree Moana Cruz, who organized the event: “Moku Ola continues to be a sacred place, held in the hearts of many as a peaceful refuge. It is the perfect location for the festival, a multicultural event dedicated to peace and harmony.”
Culture Festival programs included Grammy-winning singer and guitarist Sonny Lim, Hui Okinawa’s Kobudo Taiko drummers, Kachi Kachi music performed by El Leo-The Jarican Express, a riveting Tahitian dance to music performed by Merahi o Tapiti, a Chuukese warriors dance performance by members of Micronesians United-Big Island (a group made up mainly of University of Hawaii-Hilo students), and the dynamic UH-Hilo Samoan Club-Tupulaga o Samoa Mo A Taeao.
A traditional sakau ceremony was conducted by Micronesians United-Big Island members at the foot of the festival stage, in which kava root was pounded and prepared into a drink. Participating in the ceremony, which in Pohnpeian culture, marks every significant event from birth to death, were County of Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi, Councilman Fred Blas and Ms. Cruz.
In his welcoming remarks to the festival, Mayor Kenoi noted that “we have come together, putting aside our differences, different ideologies, philosophy, to celebrate peace . . . Peace just simply means love, and love just simply means aloha.”
The mayor, who also expressed his appreciation for the behind-the-scenes crew and volunteers, explained that “the spirit of aloha, the universal language of love, means honoring and revering our elders; loving, nurturing and protecting our children; and respecting the harmony of our families, thus creating a healthy community and island.”
“In Hawaii, we don’t just tolerate diversity, we celebrate diversity,” Mayor Kenoi told the audience. Acknowledging the “presence” of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Liliuokalani and John Lennon, whose painted wooden images presided over the festivities from the rear of the performance tent, he added, “There should be one more, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda.” It was the ICAP founder’s lifelong efforts for peace and the promotion of culture that inspired the mayor to initiate the annual festival last October.
According to Mayor Kenoi, “as Dr. Ikeda has been demonstrating this aloha spirit globally, we strive to respect and treat everyone with compassion, dignity, honesty and sincerity.”