Wiliwili Festival celebrates its eighth year

  • Keiki participate in activities at last year's Wiliwili Festival. This year's festival will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Waikoloa Stables. (Jen Lawson/Courtesy Photo)

WAIKOLOA — The eighth annual Wiliwili Festival will be Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Waikoloa Stables.

The event will feature activities for the entire family including games and a scavenger hunt for keiki and free lectures and workshops for adults and older children. Topics covered will include coastal and forest projects, the recent volcanic eruption and the wiliwili tree’s significance in Hawaiian ecology and culture.

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Lau hala weaving will be taught by Solomon Apio and an Introduction to Haku Lei will be offered by Pua and Malia Heimuli, with advance registration required. To register, email jen@waikoloadryforest.org.

A special treat at this year’s festival will be live music. Slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson from Maui will perform at 10 a.m. followed by Big Island born-and-raised guitarist Widdy Loo performing at 12:30 p.m. and nationally known vocalist Lani Waipa performing with Mila Polevia at 1:45 p.m.

Food vendors will be set up throughout the day and the event will feature a silent auction with bidding from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The revered wiliwili tree, which can live for hundreds of years, is known for its colorful blossoms and twisting gnarled limbs. Memorialized in Hawaiian history and culture, the tree is often photographed and painted as an iconic symbol of Hawaii.

The wiliwili and Hawaii’s historic tropical drylands forests are now almost completely gone due to human activity and other factors including wildfire and subsequent erosion and non-native plant invasions. WDFI Executive Director Jen Lawson says even though they are now fragmented and degraded, the areas of native forest that still persist are beautiful and inspiring places.

The WDFI seeks to preserve what is left of tropical drylands forest in the South Kohala/North Kona region by managing the 275-acre Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve. The group has planted and grows about 40 native drylands species which rely on conservation efforts for their survival.

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Free guided tours of the preserve will be offered, leaving the stables every hour between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Because tours fill up quickly, advance registration is recommended. To register, e-mail jen@waikoloadryforest.org or call 494-2208.

This year’s festival is sponsored by the WDFI and Waikoloa Plaza. Additional sponsors include Hilton Waikoloa Village, Kings’ Shops, Hawaii Forest &Trail and Hawaii Water Service.

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