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Steve Murray

Everything Sports

CELEBRITY ATHLETES, FUN ACTIVITIES AND FITNESS TIPS ARE JUST PART OF THE ESPN 1420AM SPORTS FESTIVAL SATURDAY AT THE BLAISDELL

In the business of sports talk radio, the summer months are generally considered a down period. There is Major League Baseball — and World Cup Soccer this year — but nothing else that consistently garners the interest of local sports fans until football cranks up.

In an effort to fill this void and to keep its listeners focused on local happenings, ESPN 1420AM created its annual Sports Festival. What started four years ago as a small event at Kakaako Waterfront Park has grown into a seven-hour festival that has nearly outgrown its Blaisdell Exhibition Hall space.

“Every year we have to make a decision: ‘Are we going to do this again next year?’ And each year it just gets bigger, so we continue to do it,” says station president and general manager Mike Kelly.

Kelly is expecting between 6,000 and 8,000 people to attend this year’s festival Saturday, which will include informational booths, exhibitions and activity areas. While the events and displays welcome all ages, the festival is primarily geared toward keiki, who will be given the opportunity to run, jump, kick, swing and make all sorts of noise. The price point makes it attractive to parents: It’s free.

The festival will offer more than 85 sports-, health-and fitness-related vendors, along with a large number of activities, including tennis, golf, soccer, volleyball, batting cages, Spartan races, speed and quickness, action zone, dance zones, boxing, wrestling, rock climbing and even a professional Kendama competition. Star Wars characters and members of 808 Ghostbusters will be there to keep the peace.

“It’s a great family event. It’s really great to see kids and their parents having fun together. It’s free because of Kaiser Permanente and its sponsorship. It’s just a fun, family-filled day,” says Kelly.

As it has been in the past, the most popular features likely will be the stars from Action Zone Wrestling, and the celebrity autograph signings by UH basketball coach Gib Arnold; former UH basketball stars Christian Standhardinger, Miah Ostrowski and Alika Smith; MMA star Max Holloway; Seattle Seahawks linebacker Michael Bennett, and Hawaii Five-0 star Teilor Grubbs. Autograph times are split, with one group signing from 10 to 11 a.m., and the other from noon to 1 p.m.

The biggest challenge for any continued event is to keep it fresh for returning attendees.

“We are making sure attendees have a great time,” says Kelly, “and that enough people show up so the sponsors get value.”

For this effort, festival organizers (which make up nearly all station employees) included new features such as yoga, darts, BMX riding, rugby, lacrosse and an expanded martial arts zone that features kendo, Brazilian jiujitsu, karate, kung fu and taijiquan (tai chi).

A suggestion that the boxing exhibit include a match between Sports Animals hosts Chris Hart and Gary Dickman was rejected because of their lack of athletic talent. A follow-up suggestion — a boxing version of a celebrity dunk tank — where attendees could play a small fee to box either Hart or Dickman, was more popular, but also was rejected because too many station staff members wanted to sign up.

“That’s not a bad idea,” laughs Kelly, while contemplating the entertainment value.

When queried about the possible bout, Hart did not share his supervisor’s interest.

“We would be more into Jello wrestling than boxing,” said Hart. “That way we could have a snack at the end of the fight.”

Perhaps what is most unique to this year’s show is an appearance by manga character Doraemon. The gadget cat from the future will be at the festival, along with his friends, products and coloring tables, so young fans can color their Doraemon character however they like.

Although Hart and Dickman will not be competing, the Animals and other station staff will serve as roving MCs, directing attendees to wherever the action is happening.

The fun runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All keiki who enter will need to sign a waiver, which is available at the Kaiser registration desk near the event entrance.

For more information about the festival, go to espn1420sportsfestival.com.

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