I went out and partook in the Arizona Aloha Festival for the first time on Saturday. This is the 19th year that the event has taken place, so it isn’t new to the Phoenix-area scene, but I had never heard of it before, so it was exciting to attend for the first time. It is a free event, and this year (I am not sure about the location in past years) it was located at the Tempe Beach Park, which is generally a very nice area. The festival featured Polynesian dancing, music, food, and merchandise. I was particularly interested in the dancing, and the festival had shows running all day at a large, central stage and a smaller stage. The set up was great, and neither location was too crowded to get a good view of the performers. There also seemed to be a good variety of different performances, as in the time I was there I saw a smaller show with young dancers from a local school, and adult performers doing traditional Hawaiian dances, as well as dances from the Phillipines (which, yes, itsn’t part of Polynesia, but it was still great to see), New Zealand, and Tahiti.
In terms of food, there was a nice selection of Hawaiian BBQ, as well as a Taste of Fiji booth that had some delicious curry chicken and shrimp dishes. There were also booths with Hawaiian noodle dishes, and your more typical festival fare. There was also a plethora of people selling Hawaiian shaved ice. The merchandise being sold was pretty great as well. Some of the bigger souvenir companies from Hawaii were present, but there were also a lot of smaller vendors and artists. In particular, I discovered an artisan who was selling carved shell jewelry that was both unique and very indicative of Polynesia. There were also activities for kids run by the festival organizers, and I heard rumors of free ukulele lessons but didn’t actually see the booth that was offering this.
Finally, in terms of the crowds and the overall organization of the festival, this has been one of the best cultural events that I have been to in the Phoenix-area. The crowds were tolerable, unlike what I have experienced at the Phoenix Japanese festival, Matsuri, and the performances were really well put together and presented. This is definitely a festival that I will return to in the future, and for those of you that haven’t yet been, I would highly suggest checking it out. Be sure to bring cash, and lower your stress level by having a plan of where to park, as Mill Ave parking can be a headache at times.
Link: The Aloha Festival