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Seattle Embraces Hawaiian Culture and Learns To ‘Live Aloha’

Edited by Marian Mohamed

In the Armory Food Hall, attendees peruse the Hawai’i General Store’s selection of imported snacks, treats, and ingredients. (Photo/Dash Pinck)

As the summer came to a close, the Live Aloha Culture Festival had Seattle booming with music and cheering on Sept. 10th. Live Aloha is a part of Festál, an annual series of 24 culture festivals held at the Seattle Center.

Throughout the day, every corner of the center was filled with people celebrating Hawaiian culture. Beginning at 11 a.m., vendors opened up shop inside the Armory Food & Event Hall, Mural Amphitheatre, and along the Fisher Pavilion Rooftop. Vendors present throughout the Seattle Center included Taste of Samoa, Seattle Poi Company, Hawai’i General Store, and more.

The festival offered an opportunity for anyone to learn, experience, and appreciate Hawaiian culture. During Live Aloha, people could watch beautiful hula performances, eat delicious food, and buy things like shirts and burnt wood items. A part of the festival that was quite popular were the workshops in the Armory Loft, as well as the Keiki Korner, an area of the Armory for children, or keiki, as the name suggests, to do different activities.

These workshops included lauhala weaving, ornament making, and a popular workshop for lei making with fresh orchids, where participants made lei necklaces, or lei po’os for their head. The process involved snapping off the orchid’s stem and threading a string through the center of the flower with a long needle.

One of the participants pays extra close attention to the threading in their fresh orchid lei in the Armory Loft. (Photo/Dash Pinck)

Going along with Festál’s 2023 theme of “Where the World Comes Together”, both performers and vendors come from all over the U.S. for Festál and for Live Aloha. Specifically, headliner and singer/songwriter Wehilei flew out from her home island of Oahu, Hawaii. During her set, she performed covers of “Underneath it All” by No Doubt and “Pua Olena by her mom Lorna Lim. Following the cover, Wehilei presented songs from her own discography, including hits “Movin’ On”, “Stolen”, and her newest release, “Woman”.

Washington state is home to plenty of AAPI people, many of them that enjoy dancing hula. Whether to be in touch with their culture, or learn more about Hawaii’s culture. On both the Mural and Armory stages, different halaus – hula schools – performed dances throughout the entire day. One of the recurring halaus, “Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe”, had a set that lasted for about an hour.

Dancers from Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe perform a hula dance during their set. (Photo/Dash Pinck)

During the set, Kumu Hula, Mokihana Melendez, was joined by a fellow kumu to sing while her class of women performed. The songs ranged from stories of the goddess of fire, Pele, to an emotional dance to a song about Lahaina. As they paid homage to the destruction caused by the wildfires in Maui, their dance brought both dancers and audience members to tears. When the set came to a close, the crowd called for them to do their dance honoring Lahaina one more time, or “Hana hou”’ In both versions, the Melendez invited audience members to join and dance with them.

Almost as to lighten the mood, one of the last events held left participants with full stomachs and dry mouths with a very common Hawaiian snack, spam musubi. Ten contestants were all given three musubis, and whoever ate the fastest won. Luckily, there were no downsides to losing since contestants were able to keep whatever musubi they didn’t finish.

A Live Aloha attendee visits the Dakine Island Stuff booth to check out a variety of themed memorabilia. (Photo/Dash Pinck)

The day of Live Aloha flew by, ending at 7 p.m. During the entire day, passersby could listen to different Hawaiian bands, like One Island Drop, and visit vendors for clothes, snacks, or even home decor. It established a sense of community for all who love Hawaiian culture and will continue to do so for years to come.


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