Close to 4,000 people attended the Napa Valley Expo Saturday to celebrate Hawaiian culture by listening to ukulele music, enjoying arts and crafts from the islands and eating shaved ice and barbecue.
While the Napa Valley Aloha Festival, now in its third year, remains relatively small compared to other Hawaiian cultural events in the Bay Area, visitors seemed to enjoy the day as they filled the lawn in front of the stage near Chardonnay Hall. The event, organized by the Manaleo Hawaiian Cultural Foundation of Napa, is free to the public.
“I love Hawaiian music,” said Derry O’Donovan, a race car driver and vineyard maintenance worker, as Faith Ako of Rohnert Park played the ukulele on stage. “It’s always upbeat,” he said.
“It’s great music. I love it,” he added.
Other came out of curiosity.
“I thought it’s be interesting, something new to see,” said Nancy James as she watched her 6-year-old daughter, Suhaila, play with friends.
“It’s fun,” she said.
Hawaiian natives included Val Kuamoo, of Santa Rosa, who came with his wife, two teen daughters and a friend.
Originally from Oahu, Kuamoo, enjoys food, crafts and ukulele music. On Saturday, he also came to Napa attend the performance of his aunt, Faith Ako.
“It’s small but it’s nice,” said Kuamoo, a warehouse worker, as the crowd settled to listen to Ako.
In the arts and crafts area, Linda Ransom of Sonoma helped kids make bracelets with carnations of various shades of red and white and purple orchids.
Others made feather arts and crafts or pounded tree and shrub fibers over stone rocks to make kapa, a cotton-like fabric.
Nearby, Steve Gies, a member of the Lokahi Outrigger Canoe Club of Petaluma, handed paddles to whomever wanted to sit inside the 40-foot, 400-pound canoe with a lateral support float.
Every year, new members have joined the club after seeing the canoe at the festival, said Gies, 46. The club now has 150 members who compete against other clubs in the region.
“We want to raise awareness about this sport,” said Gies, an electronic technician.
“It’s a great sport. It’s also a social activity.”
A group of Hawaiian musicians organized the festival three years ago to bring culture from the islands to Napa, explained Haunani Butler, 50, a native Hawaiian and festival organizer.
The Manaleo Hawaiian Cultural Foundation spends between $10,000 and $15,000 to put on the festival.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a group that wants to preserve Hawaiian culture, is one of its major sponsors.