Tuesday | April 28, 2015
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Savor the flavor | Kona festival celebrates coffee, culture

Get ready to savor Kona’s rich culture during a 10-day festival that celebrates and extends beyond its famous beans.

The 43rd annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival begins Friday and runs through Nov. 10, with the theme, “Kona In Your Cup.”

Since the festival’s 1970 launch, its board of directors, event chairs and community volunteers have worked to preserve, perpetuate and promote Kona’s coffee heritage and culture. The first coffee trees were planted in Kona in 1828. Since those early plantings, the industry has grown to more than 600 independent farms within the Kona region, many ranging in size from 3 to 6 acres.

Those involved with the festival are volunteers who diligently work many months, planning, organizing and creating the nearly 40 events, including art exhibits, farm tours, cultural activities and competitions. Major priorities were highlighting the multiethnic heritage of Kona and the coffee industry while showcasing the people, rooted traditions, family values and sense of place. The festival is also about bringing forth “the invisible treasures” — approaches (hard work, the pursuit of excellence and quiet determination) that helped make Kona coffee what it is, said event director Matt Carter.

Recognized as the oldest and one of the most successful food festivals in Hawaii, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival attracts tens of thousands of fans annually. Among the longtime favorites are the two-day Kona Coffee Cupping Competition, Holualoa Village Art & Kona Coffee Stroll, Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Pageant and Kona Coffee Picking Contest.

Besides being entertaining and educational, the festival offers connections to incredible people who share their knowledge, stories and aloha. It is that heart that continues to bring festival-goers back year after year, Carter said.

This year, the festival is highlighting Alfreida Fujita, who has volunteered 39 years for the event. The Historic Hawaii Foundation recently gave Fujita its Preservation Honor Award in recognition of her lifetime of community involvement and contributions toward perpetuating Kona’s history and culture. Besides the festival, she is involved with the Kona Historical Society, Daifukuji Soto Mission, Pulama Ia Kona Heritage Preservation Council and Kona Coffee Story Traveling Museum.

Most the events are supported by sponsors and community donors, all of whom help make this nonprofit festival possible. A $3 festival button gains the public entrance into many of the events. All proceeds generated through button sales and promotional items go directly back into the festival, Carter said.

There are three new events, which organizers hope will further perk interest in the festival.

The first is the Kona Coffee Art Show and Competition featuring the works of local artists who capture the spirit of Kona’s nearly 200-year-old coffee heritage and culture. Presented by the Holualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture, the show opens at 10 a.m. Friday at the Donkey Mill Art Center, where it runs through the month. Judging, awards and an artists’ reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 8. The creations will be judged in 2- and 3-D art categories.

The public is invited to participate in the two-day Coffee, Community & Cultural Workshops at the Keauhou Shopping Center courtyard, where there will be “casual, Hawaiian-style sharing and caring” by artisans, cultural practitioners and coffee farmers. The workshops will be held from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 7 and 8.

The festival’s hoolaulea makes its debut from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Keauhou Shopping Center. This celebration offers a Kona coffee corridor with free samples and coffee for sale; a Kids World with games and activities for all ages; a food market; and a Christmas craft fair. It ends with a taiko drum performance, bon dance and a showcase of more than 200 paper lanterns.

The hoolaulea replaces the parade. Organizers wanted to offer something more interactive and multigenerational, Carter said.

An emotionally stirring outdoor concert featuring Uwasa No Kyotaro, a recording artist from Japan, is slated for 8 p.m. Nov. 8 on the Keauhou Shopping Center courtyard stage. Kyotaro’s performance last year of heartfelt classics from the post-war era brought the audience to tears and evoked memories for several second- and third-generation coffee farmers. He also showcased Onna Gata, the ancient art of female impersonation from the days when only men performed on stage, Carter said.

For more information and a schedule of festival events, visit konacoffeefest.com.