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Heart at the Pan-Pacific Festival June 8-10

Two weeks from this Friday, the 33rd annual Pan-Pacific Festival returns to Waikiki streets for a weekend of international performance and celebration. Since 1980, Hawaiian residents, Japanese immigrants, and visitors to the islands have been celebrating traditional Japanese culture with "Matsuris," the Japanese word for festival. Over time the Pan-Pacific Festival has been expanded to celebrate all the cultures of Hawaii while also expanding its popularity across Hawaii and Japan - in 2010, the Festival's 30th anniversary celebration attracted around 108,000 people. This year's Festival is taking over Kalakaua Avenue, the Royal Hawaiian & Ala Moana Centers, and Kuhio from June 8-10, and plans to dazzle visitors with Korean dance, hula performances, local vendors and much, much more. Here's a look at how the event's kicking off, what's going on over the weekend, and why you should not miss the grand finale:

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Pan-Pacific Ho'olaule'a: Waikiki's Best Block Party The Festival kicks off with a full-on block party on Friday, June 8th from 7:00 to 10:00pm. Expect Kalakaua Avenue will be filled with attendees checking out the free entertainment, live performances of Hawaiian music & Japanese Taiko drums, and island crafters and vendors lining the streets. This block party is one of its kind in Hawaii, and promises not to disappoint. After all, the word Ho‘olaule‘a in Hawaiian translates to ‘gathering for a celebration; to preserve friendship and good will," so there will be no shortage of good feelings and friendly faces for you to see. And make sure to grab some authentic Hawaiian street food while you're there - we've heard it's delicious.

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Hula, Taiko, Music & More at the Performing Arts Showcase Friday and Sunday, June 8-10, visitors to the Royal Hawaiian Center & Ala Moana will be treated to performances from more than 25 international groups, performing everything from traditional Japanese songs and dances to everyone's favorite traditional hula. The Royal Hawaiian Center itself is worth visiting, too. Located in the heart of Waikiki, the Center houses more than 110 shops and restaurants as well as the largest concentration of flagship stores in Hawaii. For anyone interested in seeing more of the island, the Center is also only a 2 minute drive from Hawaiian Style's moped and bike rentals.

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Japan's Best Hula at the Pan-Pacific Hula Festival Kuhio Beach's Hula Mound will be hosting their 12th annual Hula Festival from Friday to Sunday, June 8-10, every evening until 10:00pm. Over 25 hula troupes from Japan will be performing on the casual outdoor stage right on the famous Waikiki Beach. Bring your beach chairs and mats - seating is on the grass straight across from the stage. These hula performances are the real gem of the Pan-Pacific Festival, if only because of their worldwide fame. In Japan alone there are over 200,000 practitioners of the art of hula who practice year-long in anticipation for their Hawaiian performances. These performances, along with this year's special exhibition performance by local halau, Halau O Napuala ‘Ikauika ‘Iu (led by Kumu Hula Sally Yoza), are as unforgettable as they are fun to watch.

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Shutting It Down with the Pan-Pacific Parade The Pan-Pacific Parade is the grand finale of the Pan-Pacific Festival, and features cultural performances, music & dance, and, of course, colorful floats marching down Kalakaua Avenue. In 2009 alone, over 2500 marchers took over this popular Waikiki block, and visitors can expect the same rush of excitement June 10th from 5:00-7:00pm. This year's parade is features the return of Noto Kirko, which are huge Japanese lantern floats used to guard the front and back of the parade at night. Though they're usually about 4-5 meters high, Festival attendees will catch a glimpse of Noto Kirko towering at 15 meters tall. These and the dancers, drummers, and high school marching bands of Hawaii will ensure that 2012's Pan-Pacific Festival will be one to remember.

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