360 Magazine’s Culture Editor, Tom Wilmer shares highlights of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival on the Big Island of Hawaii November 1st through November 10th.
Celebrating its 49th year, the ten-day affair is Hawaii’s oldest food festival. Of course the legendary Kona coffee is the anchor, but music, art, crafts, dance and farm tours are integral aspects of the event.
The festival is an affair that locals savor and look forward to all year, with months of behind-the-scenes advance planning. A popular event with the locals, chefs, and consumers alike is the KTA Super Store’s Kona Coffee Recipe Contest.
There are festivals around the world that are crafted primarily for the tourist, but this is one of those special events that’s propelled by passionate islanders–and visitors are instantly welcomed in to the fold and quickly feel the Aloha of being a member of the island family.
The festival kicks-off November 1st with a sunset Lantern Parade strolling down Alii Drive in the heart of historic Kailua Village.
A sampler of other cool events include a coffee and arts stroll though Holualoa Town, cultural activities and demonstrations with local artists at the Donkey Mill Art Center, and the Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Competition at the Aloha Theater—and those are just samplers from one day in the festival line up.
Did you know there are more than 600 Kona Coffee estate-producers within the Kona District—and if it ain’t grown in Kona District-it ain’t Kona Coffee.
Coffee has been a part of Hawaii’s agricultural fabric for more than 200 years. It was the immigrants, many who were looking for an alternative to working in the sugarcane fields, who propelled the coffee industry on the Big Island and throughout the State of Hawaii.
Symbolic of Hawaii’s multi-cultural roots, the pioneering coffee workers and planters’ roots read like a page from the United Nations—China, Portugal, Korea, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Japan, Hawaiians and Europeans—and today fifth and sixth generation coffee farmers continue the tradition.
The Festival honors the historic cultural roots with living-history farm tours, coffee picking and other hands-on farm experiences, a Kona Coffee 101 Seminar, and the Kona Historical Society’s Annual Farm Fest.
Greenwell Farms is hosting a “seed to cup” tour that includes a close-up look at the harvesting, process, and of course tasting Greenwell’s 100% award-winning Kona Coffee.
For the coffee purest, be sure to mark your calendar to experience the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. A panel of judges from around the world will conduct side-by-side blind tastings of more than 50 entries.
An evening of culinary delights featuring local Island Chefs and a fabulous silent auction. Music and dancing under the stars with award-winning Kahulanui- a nine piece Hawaiian Swing Band from the Big Island of Hawaii.
Certified cupping judges who have spent three days scoring Kona’s top farms in the prestigious Kona Coffee Cupping Competition will be on-hand to discuss results. Tickets are $50 general and $80 VIP (includes table seating) and can be purchased online at eventbrite.com and search The Grand Finale… A Taste of Kona! Come meet the winners from the Kona Coffee cupping contest and the Kona Coffee recipe contest at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay.