More than 1,200 persons turned out for the 29th annual Hawaii Kupuna Hula Festival Sept. 14-15 at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa, which hosted both the competition and a craft fair as 23 halau competed for top prizes in six categories.
This year's competition drew 375 participants from eight Japanese halau, or hula schools, one from Okinawa, two from Maui, one from Oahu, one from Molokai and 10 from the Big Island. The theme was 'Ola I Ka Wai A Ka Opua -- There is Life in Water from the Clouds.
The title of overall group winner went to Molokai's Na Kupuna O Moana, whose dancers compiled a grand total of 1,449.1 points.
The individual Tutu Wahine and Tutu Kane dances took place the first night, followed by the group competitions in mixed, wahine, kane and overall categories the next night.
During each performance, five judges rated the dancers on overall appearance, presentation, hand gestures and costumes, among other categories, using a 1-to-10-point scale. The top three winners in each of the competitions received prizes donated by local sponsors, including First Hawaiian Bank, Big Island Candies, Waikoloa Land Co., Kukio Resorts, Akamai Photographics, Hawaii Island Festivals, Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council, Kona Aerial Gymnastics, county Parks and Recreation Elderly Activities Division and the Kupuna Hula Festival.
This year's individual winners included the top solo kane dancer, Bucky Leslie, of Kawaimaluhia Hula Studio in Kealakekua, with 303.3 points; second place, Kananiokalani Neizman of Na Kupuna O Ka'u, and third place, Allen Diorec of Na Kupuna O Moana.
First place individual wahine honors went to Keaukaha's JoAnn Loa, of Hula Halau O Kawananakoa, with 303.9 points. In second place was Big Islander Pi'ilani Rodrigues of Na Leo Nahenahe O Pohai Kealoha, and, in third, Mattie Kaeo of Maui's Na Kupuna O Kaunoa.
The top kane group was Na Kupuna O Ka'u, scoring 291.1 points, followed by Halau Hula Onaona O Ka Maile in second place and Na Leo Nahenahe O Na Kupuna in third.
Molokai's Na Kupuna O Moana won the group wahine competition with 302.2 points. Keaukaha's Hula Halau O Kawananakoa took second place, with first-time participant Ka Pa Hula O Keolananilehua of Japan capturing third place.
Scoring 307.3 points, Na Kupuna O Moana of Molokai won the mixed group competition, followed by Na Kupuna O Ka'u, in second place, and Kawaimaluhia Hula Studio, third.
The 30th Anniversary Hawaii Kupuna Hula Festival is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12-13, 2012.