Festival showcases Hawaiian culture

Aug. 18 and Aug. 19, with headliner Bruddah Waltah

Last weekend Uwajimaya grocery store in Renton hosted its 9th annual Polynesian Festival, a festival that brings food, vendors and entertainment of Hawaii to the Renton area.

The two-day event took place in the parking lot outside of Uwajimaya grocery.

There’s a big northwest Hawaiian community, said Stephen “Braddah” Gomes, who hosts the radio program “Hawaii Radio Connection” and was emcee for this year’s event.

Gomes said the steep expenses of living in Hawaii brings a lot of young couples to the mainland, and events like this can help bring people back to the place they grew up by providing Hawaiian food and entertainment.

“We’re lucky that Uwajimaya does this, we really are,” Gomes said. “They don’t need to do this, but they do because it creates awareness that they have products from the island, and it creates a community. It’s excellent.”

On Saturday, Aug. 18, the line for shaved ice reflected the heat of the afternoon and people filled the canopied seating area to see the headliner.

Bruddah Waltah, an artist from Hawaii who’s considered one of the fathers of Hawaiian reggae, was the headliner for Saturday evening.

Waltah sang, joked and talked to the audience during his performance. At one point he invited his wife Thailiana of 43 years to come up and dance for one of his songs.

One vendor, Nathan Book of Barefeet Graphics, said though it was only his second year here with a booth, he wished he had particpated sooner.

“It’s good community, family and entertainment,” Books said. “It’s awesome.”

Gomes said the store itself also creates a community, by bringing in different products from Hawaii and selling them at the store. Then, when shoppers see each other at the store, it helps recreate that island community.

“People come back and they see each other, they say, “How are you doing? And, ‘You’re bringing back the memories of Hawaii.’ That’s what (Uwajimaya) does,” he said.

Uwajimaya in Renton is part of the largest Asian grocery retailer in the Pacific Northwest.

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