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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment October 3, 2015

8/19/2014 12:43:00 PM
Sisters goes Hawaiian with luau
Hula dancers entertained a large crowd on Thursday. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Hula dancers entertained a large crowd on Thursday. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

Storm clouds congregated over Sisters, offering a tropical island flavor for the very first Hawaiian Luau at Village Green Park on Thursday, presented by The Rotary Club of Sisters and Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD).

Shannon Mokuahi Rackowski, SPRD's adult program coordinator and hula workshop instructor, was born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and has performed the hula dance since she was 5 years old.

The hula is a Hawaiian dance accompanied by a chant or song that preserves the stories, traditions and culture of Hawaii.

"I am so happy that the community is excited about being here. News travels fast and people are here from Bend, Redmond, and Prineville! There is a lot of Hawaiian entertainment and we have so many volunteers helping from SPRD and the Rotary Club," said Rackowski.

Rotarian president Kathryn Godsiff and nine other volunteers were on hand helping serve and answering questions.

Hawaiian music provided by DJ Boogie began around 7 p.m. in the park's gazebo, as folks got their spot waiting on the buffet line for a full Hawaiian dinner including kalua pig, sticky rice, fresh pineapple, coconut cake and orange passion fruit juice.

Marge and Marvin Emmarson from Sisters chatted with friends as they waited in line, excited by the amount of folks attending the event.

"It's great, I can't believe so many people showed up for a first luau. Its community support," said Marge Emmarson.

Liam Hughes, SPRD's executive director, was busy answering questions from folks waiting on long line.

"This is incredible; we have 254 pre-registered guests!" Hughes said smiling. "Let's hope the rain holds off."

And it did.

Hundreds of folks spread out on the Village Green lawn in their folding chairs or chaise lounges, facing the park's gazebo where the Hawaiian program would begin. A hush fell over the crowd when eight little hula dancers in traditional Hawaiian attire, ages 1 through 7, made their way up to the gazebo with their hula teacher Rosemary Miller, dance instructor from Gotta Dance Studio and Company in Bend.

"We're a nonprofit hula group from the beautiful island of Redmond," Miller announced to the spectators. "We've been performing together for about a year, and we feature dancers of all ages."

Miller then went on to explain how the hula dance works:

"The hula is a dance using the hands to tell the story, the hips and feet to keep the rhythm, and the face to show mood and emotion."

Miller's nonprofit hula group, named Uhane Hawaii, meaning spirit of Hawaii, entertained an enthusiastic crowd of spectators with a variety of dancing throughout the evening.

The ukulele has become such an essential part of Hawaiian culture that mere mention of the word conjures up images of the islands. Peggy Tehan, SPRD's ukulele instructor, performed four Hawaiian tunes with her 15 students dressed in their best aloha wear.

In between performances, Hughes conveyed to the audience how much he appreciated their support by coming to the luau.

"Shannon Rackowski put the whole luau together, and all these performers have volunteered their time. This is fantastic, and I am overwhelmed with happiness," said Hughes. "The proceeds are going to scholarships that will help children from low-income families that will participate in sports in Sisters."

One of the highlights of the evening was a hula dance performed by Rackowski dancing to her uncle Don Ho's "The Hukilau Song."

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