Hawaiian dancers thrilled a large crowd at the annual Hawaiian luau.
photo by Jerry Baldock
Hawaiian dancers thrilled a large crowd at the annual Hawaiian luau. photo by Jerry Baldock

You didn’t have to fly to Hawaii to catch a hula dance performance — at least not last Thursday.

Dark clouds and thunder offered up a tropical island flavor for the fifth Hawaiian luau presented by the Sisters Park & Recreation District with sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Sisters and others. Celebrating with the aloha spirit, hundreds of people gathered at The Village Green, which was transformed into a Polynesian playground with a feast fit for Island royalty.

The luau is a colorful, festive event with Hawaiian food, music and culture fitting for the entire family. The show offered up a journey through the South Pacific Islands with an accomplished cast of artists performing to the cultural music and dances of the Hawaiian and Tahitian islands.

The event is a fundraiser for the Sisters Park & Recreation District senior scholarship program. It returned this year after last year’s hiatus.

Sisters Park & Recreation District Event Coordinator Shannon Rackowski noted, “We wanted to change up the menu this year, so I replaced the lomi lomi salmon with teriyaki chicken and instead of just pineapple there was fresh mango, pineapple, guava, bananas, and red and yellow papaya for Hawaiian fruit salad.”

The tempting Hawaiian dinner menu also included traditional Kalua pig, Hawaiian sticky rice, coconut cake and orange passion fruit juice.

Rackowski dedicated one dance, “The 16th Psalm in Ordinary Time,” in memory of her friend Mick Hunter who passed away May 21.

Rackowski was born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and has performed the hula dance since she was 5 years old. The hula (her favorite dance) is accompanied by a chant or song that preserves the stories, traditions, and culture of Hawaii.

The ukulele has become such an essential part of Hawaiian culture that mere mention of the word conjures up images of the islands.

Sisters Ukelele Group instructor Peggy Tehan, along with more than 15 students, performed a few Hawaiian tunes to the enthusiastic crowd.

The opening act of the show was met with whistles and cheers from the audience when four firefighters sauntered out dressed in Hawaiian dance gear.

Rackowski announced, “Our first number is “Fireman’s Hula — sometimes referred to by its Hawaiian title ‘Hula O Ka Hui Ka‘awai’ and we have three Sisters-Camp Sherman firefighters, Tim Craig, Matt Millar, Isreal Pintor, and Jaime Kelly from the fire exchange in England, that will dance the hula along with me.”

Rackowski added, “We all know the fire department does a job well done, and they’re easy on the eyes.”

Musician Kurt Silva headlined this year. A lead singer from Dry Canyon Stampede, Silva plays everything from country to Motown, but has a special place in his heart for Hawaiian melodies. Silva performed with Tanya Hackett, a hula dancer from Bend.

Then with traditional Polynesian music and heart-pounding Tahitian drumming, a talented cast of six dancers from the Halau Uhane group performed a fast-moving Tahitian dance, “Jungle,” that brought a hush over the crowd.

Rosemary Miller’s nonprofit Uhane Hula Dance Group, Uhane meaning “Spirit of Hawaii,” wouldn’t miss Sisters’ Hawaiian luau.

“We have a new dance this year, ‘Te Here’ and new costumes to go with it,” Miller told The Nugget. “We have so much fun here. We were sad last year without the luau. It’s our favorite show of the year.”

During their performances, Miller explained each dance to the audience as they were being performed.

She said, “The one thing about hula: There was a time when only men were allowed to dance. Women have maybe been only dancing for the past hundred years. And anyone can do the hula; you can be 2 years old; you can be 102. The hula is a beautiful way of storytelling and it’s a dance that we can share and enjoy with

everyone.”

One of the last performances was a Maori poi ball dance, where performers rhythmically perform with balls attached to strings. It is a dance native to the Maori people of New Zealand to increase their flexibility and strength.

She added, “It takes years to learn how to do long poi ball. I come from a dancing family and my brother can do six poi balls, two in each hand and two on each foot. He can also do poi balls lit on fire.”

Miller has also danced ballet, jazz and tap, but the accessibility of hula dancing is one reason why she continues to teach and dance

hula.

Jennifer and Hal Boley were relaxing in their chairs finishing a piece of Hawaiian cake.

Hal said, “I come just for Shannon’s cooking. She’s amazing. I already know how great it’s going to taste even before arriving.”

Sisters resident Marsha Marr, attending for the first time, jumped into action, volunteering to pick up all empty plates and cups.

“It’s exciting to be here. It’s a great community event and it’s just wonderful,” she said.

Alea Schliep, life enrichment coordinator from The Lodge in Sisters, has enjoyed the luau in the past and brought eight lodge residents along with her this year.

“We love the entertainment,” she said. “And we loved the food.”

Marilyn Ball, a resident of The Lodge in Sisters, loved watching the hula.

She noted, “I love this because everyone’s enjoying themselves. It’s beautiful and the costumes are great, and who cares if there’s a little rain. It’s reminiscent of 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.

(Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Sisters Rotary Club presented the event. Rotary was a sponsor; the event is under teh auspices of Sisters Park & Recreation District).