The Polynesian Cultural Center celebrated the second anniversary of our popular Hukilau Marketplace by offering hundreds of community residents and visitors special entertainment and activities, and opening several new additions to its Roulotte Court (roulottes are popular food trucks in French Polynesia).
In opening the Hukilau Marketplace in 2015, President Alfred Grace explained the Center planned this unique addition to attract drive-by, regular and community customers, as well as to “reflect on the great history and stories past of Laie.”
He was referring to the kūpuna or elders and ancestors of Laie who built our historic community, and in several cases left worldwide marks. For example, Laie — home of the Polynesian Cultural Center, is the birthplace of Hawaiians Joseph Kekuku and Hamana Kalili:
Kekuku invented the Hawaiian steel guitar as a young man, and then traveled the U.S. and Europe helping promote it. Kalili, who lost the first three fingers on his right hand in an industrial accident, would wave to the keiki or children of Laie and others with a unique thumb-and-finger-extended waggle that today is known as the “shaka” sign. Bronze statues of both Laie-born Hawaiians are proudly displayed in the Hukilau Marketplace.
Kalili also acted as King Kamehameha and shared his unusual hand-wave with thousands of visitors at the Laie Hukilau: Starting in 1948, he and other Laie kūpuna put on the Hukilau consisting of Polynesian activities, pulling in fishing nets “down in old Laie Bay,” as a popular Hawaiian song goes, and a delicious luau followed by Polynesian entertainment — all just a short distance down Kamehameha Highway from the PCC’s new Hukilau Marketplace.
When the PCC opened in 1963, some of those same kūpuna became their earliest employees; and when the Center started to develop the marketplace, they decided to give it an “old Laie” theme and name several of the shops after some of those same people who helped make the Laie community what it is today.
The Center continues to polish the Hukilau Marketplace, and most recently added several new eating options to our Roulotte Food Court, including:
- Sam Choy & Tita’s Seafood & Poke Truck, which is a partnership between famed Hawaiian chef Sam Choy, who was born and raised in Laie, and Junior and Almira Ah You, who along with their extended family operate Tita’s Grill food truck. Read more about the new Sam Choy and Ah You partnership, and the popularity of Hawaiian poke — seasoned raw fish.
- So’Da Bomb, operated by Kalin and Kiana Wilson Uluave — a young couple from Laie, offers soft drinks that are enhanced with a variety of flavored syrups. Guests can choose from a menu of established blends, or create their own mix. “Bomb,” in this case, is Hawaiian English slang for something that’s very good . . . and this is.
Christian Wilson, Kiana’s father, explained that the couple got the idea for the drink stand when they visited similar operations in Utah, where they were attending school at the time. He added that even though Kiana teaches at nearby Kahuku High School, both she and her husband are very entrepreneurial, and have each won prizes in the past for their business ideas. In fact, Kalin recently won the Hawaii State Entrepreneur of the Year award.These two new additions join other Hukilau Marketplace Roulotte Court eating and snack options, including:
Fia Fia Farms offers locally grown fresh fruit, including ripe bananas visitors can select from the bunch; and for a special treat, try their mango otai — a sweet drink blend of mango and coconut milk; Island Scoops ice cream; and Délice Crêpes —fresh-made crêpes and waffles that reflect French Polynesia in their delicious toppings and flavors
The Hukilau Marketplace also features Pounders full-service restaurant; Hapa Home Store island motif furnishings; Goos Plantation Store with island themed items, clothing, music, etc.; Na Hoku jewelry; Polynesian wood carving; Ukulele Experience; the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame . . . and more. Admission to the Hukilau Marketplace is free. For more information, go to: http://hukilaumarketplace.com
Story and images by Mike Foley
Mike Foley, who has worked off-and-on at the Polynesian Cultural Center since 1968, has been a full-time freelance writer and digital media specialist since 2002, and had a long career in marketing communications and PR before that. He learned to speak fluent Samoan as a Mormon missionary before moving to Laie in 1967 — still does, and he has traveled extensively over the years throughout Polynesia and other Pacific islands. Foley is mostly retired now, but continues to contribute to various PCC and other media.