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Travel // Tourism Matters
Mufi Hannemann

PCC Celebrating 50 Years In Laie

Hawaii’s famous visitor attraction, Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, is getting ready to celebrate its milestone 50th anniversary next year. Few, however, really know its remarkable history. In 1921, only a couple of years after the dedication of the LDS Temple in Laie, Elder Matthew Cowley returned from his missionary service in New Zealand and made a interesting prediction. He said that he hoped ” … to see the day when my Maori people down there in New Zealand will have a little village there at Laie with a beautiful carved house …the Tongans will have a village too, and the Tahitians and Samoans and all those islanders of the sea.”

That wonderful idea took hold and grew over time. In the late ’40s, church members in Laie started a hukilau – a fishing festival with a luau feast and Polynesian entertainment – as a fundraising event. By the mid ’50s, busloads of visitors were flocking to Laie to see Polynesian students at the old Church College of Hawaii ( today’s BYU-Hawaii) put on “Polynesian Panorama” – a production of authentic South Pacific island songs and dances. In 1962, president David O’McKay of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints authorized construction of Polynesian Cultural Center, and the world-class visitor attraction we know today was launched. Today, PCC offers 42 acres of authentic cultural experiences from all the Polynesian islands.

I remember accompanying my mom and dad along with my siblings to witness the grand opening. I was so excited because this was the first time that I was going to such an extravaganza. My parents participated in a special program of song and dance and my uncle, David Hannemann, was hired as PCC’s very first employee and served as assistant manager of operations. It was a fabulous day as dignitaries and special guests came from all over the United States and the Pacific to be a part of this historic day on the North Shore. That gathering of our Polynesian cousins with Hawaii as a focal point left an indelible impression on me as a 9-year-old kid.

Besides its nightly Polynesian revues, some of my other favorite secular PCC memories include Elvis filming Paradise Hawaiian Style there, Gov. George Ariyoshi being honored in traditional Polynesian attire, the authentic pomp and circumstance that is always a part of a head of government’s visit, the breathtaking fire-knife dance competition, and my latest favorite, the Haunted Lagoon experience during Halloween.

Filipina Flores

PCC also has always been about much more than entertaining tourists. It employs about a 1,000 people, 70 percent of whom are Brigham Young University-Hawaii students. Nearly 17,000 BYU-Hawaii students have financed their college education while working at the center since it opened in 1963. As we near the 50th anniversary of Polynesian Cultural Center, we should reflect on what it has contributed to Hawaii and to the Pacific region. I tip my hat to those visionaries, who against great odds had the foresight and courage to bring to pass one of the most dynamic and exhilarating cultural attractions in the world to beautiful Laie.

MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES
Filipina Flores
Position: Hostess
Location: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows

Filipina Flores, a hostess for the Bay Terrace restaurant at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotels and Bungalows, welcomes guests each morning with a warm and winning smile.

Filipina, or Pina, joined the Mauna Lani in late 2002 as a temporary employee for the holidays. Her performance was quickly noticed and she was hired on a permanent basis. Her outgoing personality and stellar service led to a promotion to waithelp and then to hostess for the Bay Terrace. A consummate team player, Pina is always ready to help other departments, assist co-workers by delivering food and clearing tables when it’s busy, and foster strong bonds among the employees through social activities. She’s a hit with guests, who let the management know about her performance. As one example, she took two guests on a shopping trip for souvenirs; the guests returned several months later with their families and introduced Pina as if she were one of their own. She never hesitates to offer visitors advice on sightseeing or places to eat, generously sharing her time and local insights with them. Filipina Flores was honored as a food and beverage person of the year at the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards ceremony. She’s also been noted for her service to the community in her support for the United Way, Visitor Industry Charity Walk and activities at her children’s school.

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