Hawaii officials say they’re ready to host FestPAC as nations begin arriving 

Hawaii officials say they are ready to host the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture next week. 

FestPAC, the largest gathering of Pacific Islanders, is anticipated to draw more than 100,000 people and over 2,100 delegates from 26 Pacific nations and territories. 

Festival Director Aaron Salā said Kiribati was the first Pacific nation to arrive on island, while others are expected to land later this week. 

“They will start coming in one after the other,” he said during a Tuesday news conference. “Some of them, for instance, Aotearoa (New Zealand) are coming in eight different flights. Some of them are coming in one fell swoop.” 

Salā also said the hosting team will be at the Honolulu airport to greet and transport delegates to their housing. Some will stay in dorms at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and the East-West Centre, while others will stay in Waikīkī hotels. 

The state has allocated more than US$12 million to plan FestPAC. 

So far, festival planners have spent more than US$9.6 million for delegate housing at UH, venue costs at the Hawaii Convention Centre, and the festival provider Gravitas Pasifika. 

Gravitas Pasifika was subcontracted to manage event production, building the Festival Village, delegate transportation, meals, broadcasting and more, according to an official at the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. 

The largest part of the US$20 million budget for the festival was the buildout of the Festival Village at the Hawaii Convention Centre and renting other venues. 

Building the Festival Villages would cost more than US$2.9 million, and renting venues would cost more than US$2.6 million, according to figures in the FestPAC budget provided to HPR. 

FestPAC was called the South Pacific Festival when it was first held in Suva, Fiji, in 1972. A group of Pacific Islander elders were worried about the erosion of culture and started the festival. 

Now called FestPAC, the celebration is held every four years, rotating across Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia. Hawaii was supposed to host in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the festival. 

Governor Josh Green said it’s historic for the Hawai‘i and the Pacific community to host the festival for the first time. 

“I want everyone to think of FestPAC as a cross between the Olympic games and Merrie Monarch,” he said. 

Green said FestPAC is an opportunity for Pacific leaders to convene and discuss pressing issues facing their islands such as climate change. 

Salā said the core values of FestPAC are the preservation of cultural knowledge and practice in the Pacific regions; raising awareness of Pacific Islander culture; maintaining a standard of excellence; and preserving Indigenous languages in Oceania. 

The Hawaii Convention Centre is the main hub of the festival. The 28 hale for the delegates are made of invasive trees. A team of contractors recently finished the last hale. Salā said the hale will be transported from Waimānalo to the convention centre by the end of the week. 

Other venues for FestPAC include Capitol Modern, Bishop Museum, Outrigger Waikiki, Waikiki Beach Walk, Royal Hawaiian Centre, Polynesian Cultural Centre, Palama Settlement, Windward Mall, UH West O‘ahu, Ala Moana Centre Stage and Honolulu Night Market. 

The convention centre will have artistic programmes such as a film festival, a fashion gala, literary arts and theatre performances. Other venues will have tattooing, carving and more. 

Daily shuttles will be available to transport delegates from UH to the convention centre and other satellite venues. According to the FestPAC budget, other transportation includes up to 28 rental cars, SUVs for VIP delegates and roundtrips to the Wa‘a Ceremony. 

Green encouraged the public to carpool or take other public transportation. 

FestPAC initially expected 28 Pacific nations and territories to attend, but New Caledonia and Vanuatu withdrew due to civil unrest and economic hardships. 

Recently, Papua New Guinea experienced a landslide, and their government said more than 2,000 people are believed to be dead. 

Salā said Papua New Guinea is still expected to attend but will work with the delegates if anything changes. 

In preparation for FestPAC, Salā said the Canoe Arrival Ceremony will be held at Kualoa Regional Park on June 5. The ceremony will not be open to the public but will be broadcast on Hawaii News Now. 

Salā said the canoe called Fa‘afaite from French Polynesia recently arrived on Hawaii Island and is going through customs and immigration in Kawaihae. 

The free 10-day festival will be held from 06-16 June.