By Shawna Leader

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u'Design by Brooks Hassig. '

It was the current economic climate that led Hui ’O Hawai’i, a club that is part of the AS Ethnic Student Center, to provide a relaxing atmosphere for their annual spring luau at 5:30 p.m. on May 16 in the VU Multipurpose Room.

“With the economic hardships and other problems in our society going on we thought that for one night the people of Bellingham and surrounding communities could come together and eat good food and relax,” said Hui ’O Hawai’i club President Cheryl Fujioka.

The theme of the event is “Makahiki: He Manawa no Lono.” Lono is the Hawaiian god of agriculture and prosperity and Makahiki is a time to set aside work and relax, Fujioka said. During Makahiki, work as well as any disputes were put aside so people could come together to play games and honor Lono, she said.

A luau is traditionally held to celebrate special events, such as a birth or wedding. The term “luau” was changed from “aha aina” about 150 years ago, according to the Polynesian Cultural Center, located in Hawai’i. “Luau” is the Hawaiian term for the taro plant, which is used in many Hawaiian dishes, including poi.

“Historically, the food and practices observed at an aha aina were rich with symbolism and the entire event was designed to unite the participants,” says the center’s Web site.

Club members from Hui ‘O Hawai’i will be performing a variety of hula dances; one of these will be a Tahitian dance, Fujioka said. Additionally, Hokulani Studios and the Sagiao Family will be performing traditional hula and Samoan dances.

The club will also be teaching attendees traditional games that were played during Makahiki, Fujioka said.

Dinner will be provided. So far, the menu consists of several items, including kalua pork, lomi salmon, macaroni-potato salad and poi.

Overall, the purpose of the event is to provide a look at Hawaiian culture that involves culture and history, Fujioka said.

“I believe our event promotes diversity on our campus and we want to share the Hawaiian culture with others,” she said.  “We also want to show others that Hawai’i isn’t all about Waikiki beach and typical tourist stuff. There is a history, culture and language behind it.”

The cost of the event is $12 for Western students with ID and $17 for general admission. Tickets at the door cost $20.

Hui ‘O Hawai’i is open to people from Hawai’i or with an interest in Hawai’i so they can gather and share cultural values. Fujioka said.

“There’s such a cultural difference between Hawaii and the Mainland [and] it’s nice to have a group of people that makes the transition a little easier,” she said.
The club meets at 6 p.m. every Thursday outside of the Ethnic Student Center.