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Polynesia Expo Sets Island Tone for Community

October 05, 1998|PAMELA J. JOHNSON

While bare-bellied Tahitian dancers shimmied to drum music behind her, Kealoha Figueroa sat in a chair Sunday weaving a headband of purple and white orchids and thick, green fern.

Figueroa, a deputy marshal, said she hurt her leg after jumping off an 8-foot wall chasing a suspect. Only able to hobble around, she decided to spend the final day of the 44th annual Port Hueneme Harbor Days making and selling colorful lei po'o, or flower headbands.

"I didn't want to miss this, even with my bum knee," she said.

For the second year, the community celebration at Hueneme Beach featured a Polynesian theme. Called the Lotogatasi Polynesian Expo '98, the annual event is meant to promote harmony among people of different ethnicities, said organizers.

Figueroa, who is Hawaiian and Tahitian, traveled from Santa Ana, where she works for the U.S. marshal's office, to attend the event.

George Pritchard, who is also Polynesian, came all the way from Salt Lake City to sell his line of Hawaiian-style clothing at one of the many vendors' booths.

"It's the unification of all Polynesians that makes this a special event," Pritchard said. "It's all about togetherness and being of one spirit."

Kilisitina Vainuku of Oxnard organized the expo with her husband, Sione. The couple own a Polynesian dance company, Tina Ports of Paradise, in Ventura. She estimated about 10,000 people attended the three-day event.

In addition to clothing, jewelry, arts and crafts, vendors at the expo sold traditional Polynesian food such as taro with coconut milk, Samoan chop suey and New Zealand corn beef.

"We're sharing our culture--music, song, food and history--with the community," Vainuku said. "Not everyone has the money to go to the Polynesian islands. This way, we bring the islands to the community."

Although Maria Manzano, 11, and her 7-year-old brother, Jovany, intently watched the Tahitian dancers on stage, they said that was not their favorite part of the event.

"The cotton candy," decided Maria, in between pulling off and eating handfuls of the sticky pink stuff.

The harbor celebration also featured a parade, fishing derby, a 10K run and sports tournaments.

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