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The University of Hawaiʻi led the opening of this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., where hula hālau Unukupukupu from Hawaiʻi Community College, took the main stage and thrilled the international crowd.

Then the hālau led UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, university administrators, students, faculty and community supporters as they all blew conch shells to signal the start of the long-awaited festival. The UH delegation then led 19 other public land-grant universities and colleges to the heart of the cultural festival.

“What we’re celebrating here in Washington is the value and the contributions of the indigenous people, as well as the impact of the modern research university and the combination of celebrating our past and heralding our future,” said Greenwood.

More than a million people are expected to visit the Smithsonian Folklife Festival over the next two weeks. Several visitors from Germany and Switzerland stopped at the UH exhibit and said they had never seen hula before.

Others got reacquainted with their roots by pounding poi at the taro patch exhibit. Former Hawaiʻi resident Norene Gerstner said she moved to Virginia in 1973.

“This is unique because I’ve never done this before and I’m just thrilled by this whole poi experience and I’m going to raise my own taro, make my own poi,” said Gerstner.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs said it was a sight to see people from all over the world experiencing the Hawaiian culture, and one of the reasons OHA helped sponsor the University of Hawaiʻi’s participation in this once in a lifetime event.

OHA stands by to assist and work with the university as we continue to lead in research to help create a healthy Hawaiʻi community,” said OHA Chair Colette Machado.

“For the University of Hawaiʻi, it’s a great opportunity to share culture, heritage and the work in terms of research academia,” said OHA CEO Kamanaʻopono Crabbe.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The University of Hawaiʻi will be among 20 public land-grant universities to be featured in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. from June 27 to July 8, 2012.

The festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act, which paved the way for higher education for rural and working class Americans.

The University of Hawaiʻi exhibits will feature traditional Hawaiian health and healing practices, a mini taro patch, non-instrument navigation, medicinal herb and organic farming and much more. Hawaiʻi Community College’s halau Unukupukupu and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Tuahine Troup will also perform.

See more on the University of Hawaiʻi’s Smithsonian experience.

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