Fireknife Title, Samoan Culture Festival in Laie

Oahu teens will go head to head and leaf to leaf to demonstrate their knowledge of Samoan cultural traditions, competing in skills such as basket weaving, coconut husking, fire making and banana peeling at the High School Samoan Cultural Arts Festival May 12 in Laie.

The event is set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Polynesian Cultural Center’s Pacific Theater – alongside the 20th annual World Fireknife Championships and as part of the “We Are Samoa” Festival.

Castle High’s Polynesian Club will compete against Kailua, Kahuku, Campbell, Kapolei, Waipahu and Radford high schools. A total of 29 students will represent the Castle club, including two from Samuel Kamakau charter school and four from King Intermediate.

“This is the first time in about 15 years that Castle has participated in the festival,” said club adviser Leilani Silva. The Knights were victorious the last time, and Silva is hoping to win again. “We have a pretty high standard we have to keep up, too. We want to make sure that when we go back we hold the title once more.”

She said the students have been working hard for weeks, practicing four days a week for three to four hours. While all this practice takes time, it’s important for them to keep up with their studies, too.

“The club encourages our Polynesian kids to get more involved and share their culture, as well as keep up with academics. They want to compete, so they want to do well in school, too.”

Contestants in the fire-knife championships May 9-12, meanwhile, will perform acts of bravery with acrobatic moves and death-defying tricks with Samoan fireknives as they compete for the title, which is the major showcase of PCC’s “We Are Samoa” events. The schedule is below.

* May 9, 7:45 p.m. at Hale Aloha: Senior division preliminary competition.

* May 10, 7:45 p.m. at Hale Aloha: Junior Pacific division, senior division semi-finals and open group.

* May 11, 7:30 p.m. at Pacific Theater: First finals night for senior division; intermission is the “Ha: Breath of Life” show.

* May 12, 7:30 p.m. at Pacific Theater: Second finals night for senior division, “Ha: Breath of Life,” crowning and awards ceremony at 9 p.m.

Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for keiki ages 5 to 11 years old. The last two nights require reserved seating for “Ha: Breath of Life.” For tickets, go to or call 293-3333.