The soothing sounds of ukuleles drifted lazily through the air of Castaic Lake on Sunday as performers played music and sang to the crowd at this year’s Santa Clarita Valley Pacific Islander Festival.
Vendors and performers representing various Pacific island nations like Hawaii, New Zealand and Samoa gathered to present their cultural arts at the two-day festival, which began on Saturday. This is the first year that the festival was located at Castaic Lake after previously being held at Hart Park the past six years.
“We wanted to share the different island cultures with the community of Santa Clarita and the rest of north Los Angeles County,” said Kin Farrell, whose wife, Gladys, is the director of Kalakeke Pacific Island Dance Company, which organized the festival. “We outgrew Hart Park and we chose to come to Castaic Lake because of the great scenery and people love being near the water.”
Gladys said she first started the event because she noticed that in Santa Clarita, there was no outlet for the artistic representation of the different Pacific Island cultures.
“Over the years we’ve seen the festival grow and attract people from Santa Clarita and the surrounding counties,” Gladys said. “A lot of our guests like the new venue and some of them didn’t even know Castaic Lake was here, so it was a good way to highlight what we have here in Santa Clarita other than Magic Mountain. I hope people coming here see how valuable the Pacific Islander families are to the community and understand more about our culture and especially the music.”
Austin Jae Santos has performed with his hula ministry at the festival for several years and said he appreciated the consistently welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere of the festival.
“There’s such a great spirit of aloha at the festival today,” Santos said. “There’s such a disconnect between the younger generations so events like this are important to help educate those younger people and keep the cultures alive. Even if they aren’t our own cultures, just the appreciation itself is important.”
Kekela Blaisdell is a longtime attendee of the festival, and having been born and raised in Hawaii, she said it made her feel like she was at home.
“I love all the music, the food and the dancing and I can’t pick a favorite part of the festival,” Blaisdell said, “Events like this open up the opportunity for people who don’t really have that cultural aspect. With me, I was born and raised in another cultural environment and it’s nice to have it locally available.”