Monday, September 2, 2013 — The second official day of the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 50th Anniversary celebration smiled on the many alumni and friends who could come to Laie with beautiful weather and refreshing trade winds.
PCC President Alfred Grace addresses alumni and special guests during the 50th Anniversary Alumni Reception in the Hawaiian Village
PCC Historical Presentations
The morning’s activities started with some alumni wondering where the Hawaiian Journey Theater is. If you’re really a “golden” alum, that’s the large-format movie theater the PCC built on the original Tongan Village site, starting in the late 1980s.
“Silver” alumni (1988-present) would probably know it as the IMAX™ Theater, referring to the large-format movies we used to show there. More recently the name and motif was changed to the Hukilau Theater, in honor of the kūpuna who put on the famous Laie Hukilau, starting in 1948; but earlier this year PCC completed a total renovation of the building and named it after the Center’s brand-new multimedia experience, Hawaiian Journey, which shows there.
This brief historical digression sets the mood for two presentations this morning in the Hawaiian Journey Theater: PCC Vice President of Human Resource John Muaina reviewed the beginnings of the Cultural Center, and retired PCC Vice President T. David Hannemann discussed founding prophecies and visions behind the establishment of the Laie Hawaii Temple, Brigham Young University Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie.
Welcoming ceremonies in each village
At 10 a.m. each village welcomed any alumni who chose to go there . . . with songs, dances — and FOOD! For example, in the Samoan Village everybody enjoyed kopai, panakeke and supo ‘esi.
Of course, the food came after, because it wouldn’t have been a real Polynesian Cultural Center greeting without some authentic Polynesian protocol; so… again in Samoa, Chief Pipi Kap Te’o-Tafiti [pictured at right] used formal oratory to recognize the returning alumni and guests. According to custom, Viiga Fuimaono Jr., who came from Samoa for the reunion, responded on behalf of the alumni, then turned the tables on Te’o-Tafiti by wondering if there was a reward for his speech. It was all good fun and lots of opportunity to meet old friends.
The Islands of Aotearoa put on a whole powhiri ceremony similar to the one they did on Friday, August 30, 2013, for the visiting kapa haka groups as well as the returning Te Aroha Nui Maori Company. This time, however, the Te Aroha Nui people, having already been welcomed, joined the PCC villagers in welcoming back other alumni.
Flag Raising Ceremony
Island representatiives prepare to raise their respective island-nation flags
At 11:30 a sizeable crowd gathered at the Front Entrance plaza to take part in the PCC 50th Anniversary Flag Raising ceremony. With Steve Laulu and several of the Samoan villagers singing the U.S. national anthem, PCC Security team members raised a gigantic American flag first; then representatives from each village raised their respective national flags.
It wasn’t a long ceremony, but it was touching . . . especially with the trade winds quickly catching all the flags, waving them in the breeze.
Following several other events, including an island craft fair in the May Day area — so called because that’s where we used to hold cultural events years ago when that was a relatively open space that could accommodate crowds and special presentations. Master carver Tuione Pulotu also has some of his beautiful creations on display there (but not for sale). [Pulotu and his CCH carving, which has a BYUH motif on the other side.]
Next, the Joan S. Lindsey Hula Studio and island artist John Cruz put on a free concert in the Front Entrance Court yard; and even while this was going on, alumni started migrating toward the main event of the day:
Alumni Reception in the Hawaiian Village
It was a perfect evening: So many good friends, ono heavy pupu, great music and typical island-style extemporaneous talent — all under the stars on a beautiful evening cooled by trade winds. The Hawaiian word nahenahe perfectly describes the occasion.
There were past presidents, family members and former Board directors there, as well as hundreds of alumni from all over the world. There was also a lot of people hugging and kissing as they rekindled old friendships and shared fond memories.
[Harry Brown, left, and Della Haas Kim represented Hawaiian ali’i to help welcome the alumni and guests to the Hawaiian Village.]
The Hawaiian Villagers got the ball rolling in the talent department, with Kaipo Manoa doing the emcee duties. In addition to the Hawaiian villagers sharing hula and latin dances, others sharing their talents — many of them not knowing they would do so at the beginning of the evening — included Te Aroha Nui Maori Company, and Uncle Joe Ah Quin who sang The Hawaiian Wedding Song with Salu Hunkin Tagoai-Tuigamala — who kept cracking up the crowd as she struggled to hit or hold some of the notes, because she had just eaten.
Uncle Joe reminded us that during the time he was the Hawaiian Village chief, he planted the beautiful monkey pod tree that now arches over the village green.
[Sandy Kawelo Bassett and Jimmy Bassett (at left) were among the original PCC employee-alumni who attended the reception in the Hawaiian Village. In fact, Jimmy had special shirts made up for other proud original PCC employees.]
Others who shared their prodigious talent included Keepa Smith, who’s originally from New Zealand but now lives in Sydney, Australia; Sione Hafoka and his girls — he’s originally from Tonga but now lives in Minnesota; Huiariki Watene, who not only sings, but is a talented comedian; and others.
“It’s so fun to come together and meet each other — while we can still remember anything,” Cy Bridges joked, when it came his turn to share a beautiful song, with daughter Maria Bridges Nakila providing the hula.
At the end of the evening, PCC President & CEO Alfred Grace thanked all the alumni “who love the Polynesian Cultural Center and have a special aloha for this part of the Lord’s kingdom.” He added that President Monson has charged him with preparing the PCC “for the next 50 years.”
— Polynesian Cultural Center story and photos by Mike Foley