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Hamakua Alive!

Pa'auilo, Hamakua

Started in October 2007 with 11 participants, the Third Annual Hamakua Alive! Festival held in Pa'auilo Elementary and Secondary School on October 24, 2009 was a huge success. The event has grown in leaps and bounds with over 40 booths this year and the largest ever number of entries in the cooking contest.

The brainchild of Jim Reddekopp of the Hawaiian Vanilla Company and three other Hamakua farmers, the event showcases the bounty and talent that abounds in the Hamakua area in a fun, fair-like atmosphere enlivened with talented local musicians. Farmers and growers, producers and manufacturers, vendors and artisans, and nearly everyone who grows or utilizes locally grown agricultural products came together to celebrate the diversity and richness of the area.

Chefs paired up with farmers to cook mouth-watering homegrown food. Master Gardeners taught how to trap fruit flies and how to make home gardening fun. Tea growers offered tastings and a broad variety of tea products; schools presented their food gardening projects through the Hawai'i Island School Garden Network; and Slow Food Hawaii shared information about its mission, its program of educational outings, and the benefits of membership.

Homegrown beef cuts such as ground beef, sirloin, steaks and tenderloins, as well as beef jerky and a beef teriyaki were popular sale products. Taro was on full display with corms and plants, chips, poi, and laulau available from several booths. One exhibitor was teaching keiki how to plant taro in a pot, which the keiki could then take home. Vendors had booths displaying honey; homegrown and nursery plants; solar energy; vermiculture; veggies and fruits of every kind in a riot of colors; and gorgeous displays of locally grown protea and colorful orchids, competing with each other for attention.

The aroma of the food melded with the aroma of the fruits and flowers to enthuse and entice the senses: mushrooms simply sautéed with wine and seasonings; roasted red bell pepper and tomato bisque infused with a touch of vanilla. This preceded one of the big highlights of the day, the cooking contest. Entries featured locally grown produce or value-added products. The categories represented were pies & cakes, breads, and jellies & jams. Judging was conducted by professional chefs based on best use of product, originality, presentation and taste. Winners in each category walked away with $100 for first place, $75 for second and $50 for third.

Hamakua Alive! is fulfilling its early promise of becoming the local foodie happening on the east side of Hawai'i Island.

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