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Niu Festival

Maui celebrates the cultural importance of coconuts.

July 12, 2012
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez · Senior Contributing Writer , The Maui Weekly

On Saturday, July 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Grand Wailea will welcome Maui's inaugural Niu Festival.

"Niu" is the Hawaiian word for "coconut," and the Niu Festival will celebrate the cultural importance of the coconut plant to the Hawaiian people.

This free festival will include nonstop Hawaiian entertainment, hands-on presentations, informative workshops, canoe rides and coconut-themed food booths.

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Niu Festival

Maui's top amateur chiefs will battle it out at the "Coconut Cook-off" at 11:30 a.m., and coconut crafts and products made by local artisans will be sold in the Coconut Marketplace.

The Niu Festival kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 20, with a free showing of "Papa Maui, The Wayfinder," a film about legendary Polynesian navigator Mau Piailug.

The Hawaiian Cultural Advisory Council of the Grand Wailea is providing cultural direction for the festival.

"For Polynesians, the coconut plant provided every basic necessity for survival, including food, water, shelter and fiber," explained Kahu Lyons Naone, the council's chairman.

"Niu Festival is our way of celebrating the coconut, teaching about its many benefits and having a lot of fun at the same time," Naone added.

Wailea's first Niu Festival will present Hawaiian entertainment, educational presentations and workshops by cultural practitioners, canoe rides and coconut-themed foods booths by the Grand Wailea.

The Coconut Marketplace will feature coconut crafts and products made by Maui artisans. Festival-goers can participate in hands-on demonstrations of traditional uses of the coconut plant such as husking, frond weaving, sennit braiding and more.

At midday, Maui's top amateur chefs will battle it out at the "Coconut Cook-Off" with sample dishes to be rated by celebrity judges: Pamela Young of KITV, Chef Alan Wong, and Grand Wailea Executive Chef Eric Faivre.

First prize includes the Royal Niu Treatment for two at Spa Grande, weekend accommodations for two at the Grand Wailea and dinner for two at the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a oceanfront restaurant.

Musicians from the UH Maui Institute for Hawaiian Music kick off the entertainment as 10:15 a.m. after the opening protocols. They will be followed by slack key artists Kevin and Sheldon Brown and dancers from Tihati Productions.

Hatota Tehiva will open the workshops at 10:30 a.m. with a presentation on the numerous ways coconuts are used throughout Polynesia.

At 1 p.m., Kahunali'i Bula Logan will present a workshop on the numerous medicinal uses of niu. A descendent of Hawaiian spiritual medicine high chiefs, Logan was trained at an early age by his grandmother, Kaleiwohiokalani, and later from Loea Kalua Kaiahua of Hoalike Ko Kahiko Hou La'au Lapa'au.

Preceding Logan at noon, Anela Benson, who crewed on the Hokule'a canoe in 2007 on its voyage to Oshima, Japan, will speak on the vital relationship between canoes and coconuts.

Hawaiian falsetto singer Kamakakehau Fernandez will close the festival with his performance from 2 to 3 p.m.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the educational programs of Hui O Wa'a Kaulua, Maui's canoe voyaging organization. All events are at the Grand Wailea.

For more information, go to or call 283-9419.



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