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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment September 23, 2017

8/15/2017 1:42:00 PM
Luau brings Hawaiian spirit to Sisters
Shannon Rackowski dances at the SPRD luau on Thursday. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
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Shannon Rackowski dances at the SPRD luau on Thursday. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

Last Thursday evening dark clouds congregated over Sisters, creating a tropical island flavor for the 4th annual Hawaiian Luau presented by Sisters Park & Recreation District and the Rotary Club of Sisters.

The Village Green blossomed into an island paradise with traditional luau décor, including tiki torches. And the aroma of authentic cuisine filled the air as over 300 guests gathered to have an authentic Hawaiian meal with entertainment featuring traditional Polynesian dance and music.

The event is a fundraiser for the Sisters Park & Recreation District senior scholarship program.

Hundreds of folks spread out on the Village Green lawn munching on their traditional luau meal of kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, sticky rice, coconut cream cake, and passion fruit juice.

Sisters Ukelele Group, instructed by Peggy Tehan, kicked off the first set with more than 20 students playing their ukuleles, including new Sisters resident Carolyn Loving.

"We just moved here from the Portland area," Loving told The Nugget. "This is so much fun, and I've been playing the ukulele for 10 years."

Margery Guthrie waited on the food line with friends.

"This is my first time here and I'm happy about that," Guthrie said. "I used to be in Shannon's exercise class. And have danced the hula since I was 12 years old and was even in talent shows."

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.

Rackowski dedicated this year's luau to Roland Cazimero, a guitarist and singer, who passed away in July. He helped in the evolution of modern Hawaiian music, primarily as one-half of The Brothers Cazimero.

"Roland has a twin sister, Kanoe, who was my hula sister," Rackowski said. "I was a part of this family for over 40 years."

Michael Dane, from Hilo, Hawaii, was this year's featured guest at the luau. He was also a key part of the cultural movement in the evolution of modern Hawaiian music.

One of eight children from a musical family, he played all around the Hawaiian Islands when he met Jack De Mello, a well-known writer, producer, and orchestra leader. De Mello made Hawaiian music work for talents like The Brothers Cazimero, Nina Kealiiwahamana, and Michael Dane.

"Jack wanted them to shape Hawaiian music in their own way," Rackowski said.

When Dane relocated to the Pacific Northwest, he fell in love with Oregon and became the headliner for Salishan Resorts on the Oregon coast for 15 years, then in 1997 he became the headliner for Gracie's Sea Hag in Depoe Bay and has been performing there for 20 years.

"I met Michael over 25 years ago at the Salishan and we have been performing together ever since," Rackowski said.

Dane's wife, Connie, and her dog, Momi, sat near the stage to watch husband Michael perform.

"The first thing Michael will do is chant a Hawaiian blessing for everyone here," Rackowski announced to guests.

Dane was holding a 200-year-old bamboo flute,

"This ancient Hawaiian musical instrument, ohe hano ihu (pronounced oh-hay hah-no ee-hoo) is played through the nose and not with the mouth. It's played with the nose because Hawaiians believe the nose is pure breath," Dane explained.

Musician Kurt Silva, lead singer from Dry Canyon Stampede, plays everything from country to Motown, but he has a special place in his heart for Hawaiian melodies. Silva performed with hula dancers Tanya Hackett, Shannon Rackowski and the Halau (Hula) Uhane dance group.

"This is really wonderful that I'm getting a dancer for every song I'm performing this year!" Silva said.

Rackowski dedicated a song, "White Sandy Beach of Hawaii," to her brother, Samson, who passed away two years ago.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house as guests watched Rackowski hula while Dane played the melodic song written by the late Hawaiian vocalist Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

"This was the song that I danced to when I took his body back home to Hawaii. He had come here to be with me for the last 17 years of his life before passing," Rackowski said.

Rosemary Miller, dance instructor for Halau (Hula) Uhane dance group, a nonprofit organization from Redmond, had her Hawaiian dance group, ages ranging from 18 months up to adult, ready for some Polynesian dancing.

"We have two new songs to dance to this year," Miller said. "The Canoe Dance, with the song from the movie 'Moana,' and a traditional dance, Holoholo Ka'a, a driving dance when the automobile first came to Hawaii."

The luau festivities captured the spirit of the Hawaiian culture in that every luau is authentic when there is a gathering of people who want to enjoy food, fun, and one another.

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