Hawaii Tourism Authority honors 2013 Legacy Award winners

HONOLULU, Hawaii - The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the state's tourism agency, presented The Merrie Monarch Festival, Polynesian Cultural Center, and Hilo Hattie with its 2013 Tourism Legacy Award

Hawaii Tourism Authority honors 2013 Legacy Award winners

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency, presented The Merrie Monarch Festival, Polynesian Cultural Center, and Hilo Hattie with its 2013 Tourism Legacy Awards during the 2013 Hawaii Tourism Conference Legacy Awards Luncheon yesterday at the Hawaii Convention Center. All celebrating 50th anniversaries this year, the 2013 recipients are recognized for their long histories of perpetuating the Hawaiian culture and sustaining a “legacy of aloha” that makes Hawaii a special place to live and visit.

“We are proud to recognize The Merrie Monarch Festival, Polynesian Cultural Center and Hilo Hattie for their commitment and dedication in preserving and promoting our Hawaiian culture and history for the past 50 years,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the HTA. “Their legacies celebrate our unique people, place and culture that make our destination unlike anywhere else in the world. Congratulations and mahalo to this year’s honorees.”

The HTA’s 2013 Tourism Legacy Awards honorees were:

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a nonprofit organization that honors the legacy of King David Kalakaua, who inspired the perpetuation of traditions, Hawaiian language and the arts. The week-long festival features an internationally acclaimed hula competition, an invitational craft fair, an art show, hula shows and a grand parade through Hilo town. The event draws nearly 10,000 visitors to the island of Hawaii each year. The festival is the focal point and catalyst that supports and draws an extensive network of instructional hula schools, masters, instructors, researchers and students of all ages who are committed to the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture. The proceeds from the festival support educational scholarships, workshops, seminars, symposiums and the continuation of the festival into the future.

The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) opened its doors 50 years ago this fall in an effort to preserve and perpetuate the host culture of Hawaii and all of Polynesia. Since then, PCC has welcomed more than 37-million guests, providing fun and engaging opportunities to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Polynesian people, their language, food, music, song and dance. Representing the islands of Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Rapa Nui (Easter Island), PCC inspires us to celebrate the differences of each culture as well as the similarities that connect us as Polynesians and to the rest of the world.

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“Hilo Hattie,” Clarissa “Clara” Haili, was known for her true aloha spirit and began her career as a school teacher who sang and danced her way into modern history. She popularized the comic hula style with such tunes as “When Hilo Hattie Does the Hula Hop” and “The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai.” She legally changed her name to “Hilo Hattie” in 1942, and became a household name in Hawaii and across the nation as “Hawaii’s Ambassador of Goodwill.” In 1963, Hilo Hattie opened its first store on the island of Kauai, which has grown into a chain of seven stores across the Hawaiian Islands. The success of Hilo Hattie, “The Store of Hawaii” comes from their employees who are dedicated to providing that sense of aloha the world came to know in Hilo Hattie, the person. Clara “Hilo Hattie” Nelson passed away in 1979, leaving behind a legacy carried on by Hilo Hattie, “The Store of Hawaii.”

The Tourism Legacy Awards, evolving from the “Keep it Hawaii” program, was established by the HTA to honor individuals, organizations and businesses that perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and traditions. Honorees have worked diligently to nurture the host culture creating respectful and authentic visitor experiences while securing bonds between the visitor industry and the Hawaiian community. Previous honorees included the late Dr. George Kanahele, Daughters of Hawaii and the Bishop Museum.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is a state agency established by law in 1998 to ensure a successful visitor industry and tourism economy in the state of Hawaii. As the state’s tourism authority, its mission is to strategically manage tourism to optimize benefits for Hawaii, integrating the interests of visitors, the community and visitor industry. Through the implementation of the statewide Hawai’i Tourism Strategic Plan and HTA’s own strategic plan, the authority works to direct Hawaii tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with our economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, community desires, and visitor industry needs.

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