Event Finds: Waikiki

1) Spam Jam

In Hawai‘i residents consume the most spam per person than anywhere else in the United States. So it's no surprise that the state that consumes close to seven million cans of Spam each year also has its own festival for it, and the annual Waikiki Spam Jam -- held every April along Kalakaua Avenue -- is a food festival like no other.

Your opu (belly) will be singing a new tune as you sample spam dishes from some of the island's top eateries who take a local twist on Hawai‘i's favorite canned meat. Our taste buds were abuzz with Spam Jam twists like the loco moco spam burger, spam siu mai, spam street tacos and more. Spam-a-licious.

After filling your stomach on spam, you can jam out at one of the event's two entertainment stages or check out the Spam-themed merchandise tents and Hawaiian craft booths. And while there is no cost for admission to Spam Jam, attendees can make a donation of canned spam (or any other canned food) to the Hawai‘i Foodbank. Because we can all do something to can hunger!

To make plans for next year's spam-a-jama visit www.spamjamhawaii.com.


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2) Okinawan Festival

Celebrating Japan's southernmost prefecture for more than 30 years, Waikiki's Okinawan Festival has been bringing together people from all ethnicities and walks of life to honor the Uchinanchu (Okinawan) culture in Hawai‘i. From local Okinawan favorites like the Anda Pop (because very few things in life are as good as andagi - a deep fried dessert - on a stick dipped in chocolate) to getting up close and personal with the Okinawan dragon dog -- this festival offers something for everyone.

If you attended the Okinawan Festival years ago you may remember it at Ala Moana Park's McCoy Pavilion and Kapi‘olani Park in Waikiki, but this year it is taking place at the Hawaii Convention Center to accommodate the more than 50,000 guests it attracts annually.

If you can, make plans to check out the Okinawan Festival Bon Dance which is traditionally held on Saturday night, and allows participants of all ages and ability levels to get their bon dance on. In between sets grab a fundagi (or two) for the fam. The Okinawan-style funnel cake, lightly dusted in sugar is only available during the Saturday bon dance and will have you doing a special fundagi-inspired jig.

To get all the latest and greatest details on this year's Okinawan Festival, visit http://www.okinawanfestival.com/.


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3) Ukulele Festival

Strumming along since 1971, the Ukulele Festival Hawaii has been bringing the joy of Hawaiian music to island residents and visitors for dozens of years. Striking the perfect note every July, Ukulele Festival Hawaii is the largest ukulele festival of its kind in the world, attracting thousands of spectators as well as guest artists and an enormous ukulele orchestra of more than 800 ukulele students. The complimentary concert at the Kapiolani Park bandstand in Waikiki is now an annual summer tradition for local families who make a day out of it, grabbing their blankets, lawn chairs and coolers for a picnic at the park.

A member of the guitar family of instruments, the ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-leh-leh) is a 19th century instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants where it quickly gained popularity. Ukulele Festival Hawaii organizer and well-known ukulele musician Roy Sakuma and his wife Kathy have dedicated their lives to sharing the joy of this local instrument through lessons, festivals and community events.

Follow your ears and the sweet sounds of the uke to enjoy internationally and well-known celebrity musicians, food booths, ukulele displays, giveaways and lessons. Grammy award-winning artist James Ingram is a regular face at the festival since 1994 when he and Roy Sakuma met and collaborated on the Ukulele Festival Hawaii's theme song, "Come and Join Us," which was later honored with the Hawaii Music Award's single of the year award. While the Ukulele Festival has since taken to the road to include shows on Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui, the original is still considered by many - the best.


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4) Lantern Floating Hawaii

Each Memorial Day, Ala Moana Beach Park lights up with Lantern Floating Hawai‘i - a longstanding local event which invites participants to celebrate the lives of those who have passed. Hosted by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order the event typically attracts tens of thousands of kama‘aina and visitors from around the world who float through Magic Island to participate in the local tradition.

Arrive early to lock in your own lantern. The "lantern tent" opens at 10 a.m. on Memorial Day, but the line lengthens quickly to snap up the paper lanterns, which share handwritten notes of remembrance. For those who hope to share a message or memory of a loved one, all notes submitted online at www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com at least one week prior to the event will be included on the lanterns released during the ceremony. Lanterns are free but donations are accepted on behalf of the City and County of Honolulu.

Pack a picnic and some lawn chairs and spend the day sunning and surfing as you wait for the main event at dusk. Leading up to the lantern ceremony participants also enjoy a bright lineup of entertainment including song and dance. As the sun sets participants release more than 5,000 lanterns inscribed with messages to their loved ones into the Pacific Ocean.


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