University of Hawaii Sends 80 People to ‘Once in a Lifetime Opportunity’ at Smithsonian’s 2012 Folklife Festival, But Total Costs Not Tallied

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BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN AND JIM DOOLEY – Around 80 people representing the University of Hawaii traveled to Washington DC to participate in the Smithsonian’s 2012 Folklife Festival, but the University is still unsure what the cost will be to taxpayers.

Lynne Waters, spokesperson for the University, estimates the total bill for the event, which runs from June 27 to July 8, is around $230,000 to transport, lodge, and staff the Hawaii delegation’s presentations, but said the final tally won’t come until the festival is over. That is around $3,000 per person for the 15-day trip, Waters said.


“We are managing to make economical arrangements because we worked hard to find a great deal on dorm rooms for the bulk of our delegates/presenters through George Washington University,” Waters said.

The public University obtained some of the financing from government grants including $25,000 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and $10,000 from the Hawaii Convention Center and Hawaii Tourism Authority. The institution also secured $50,000 through the non-profit University of Hawaii Foundation and up to $20,000 from the Smithsonian Institutions.

“Additional savings were realized by in-kind services and donations from vendors and UH alumni in the D.C. area who did things like receive and store shipments of plants, flowers, and perishables, for instance, helping us to avoid storage costs, and other similar donations. A community partner with Hawaiinuiakea’s (UH Manoa) Kanewai program is donating 6 pallets of indigenous plants and materials and several dozen pounds of taro for both display, teaching, and decoration purposes,” Waters said. “So that roughly adds up to half the cost of the project. Each campus and school which is represented through delegates (6 in the system- UH Manoa, UH West Oahu, UH Hilo, Windward CC, Leeward CC, Hawaii CC) helped with funding its group’s costs.”

In addition to students and faculty, the University also brought presenters from the community. The list of participants, which Hawaii Reporter requested, has not been released to date by the University.

“UH is taking close to 80 participants up; 95% of whom will be active presenters, demonstrators, teachers, and performers. Association for Public and Land Grant Universities and the Smithsonian require that everything we present must be connected to/demonstrate how UH as a public land grant institution serves its community. About 50 – 55 participants are students, faculty and staff with various UH programs. The remaining 20-25 presenters are from our community partners, such as MA’O Farms, for example,” Waters said.

University of Hawaii President MRC Greenwood said in a written statement: “One of our core missions is to become the model indigenous serving educational institution in the U.S. Our presenters and performers will be personally and interactively sharing the culture and traditions of our home land and also demonstrating how science and academics provide a bridge from the past to the future. The theme ‘Campus and Community’ must be evident in everything we do. That’s why we’re taking our community partners up with us to show how we serve our community as a land grant university. We will endeavor to be worthy representatives of this special institution and all it means to the people of Hawaii.”

The trip is a worthwhile investment, Waters said, because it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to share the school’s world-class programs and educational activities with an international audience” since over 1.5 million visitors go through the festival every year.

“We’re working hard to get national media exposure while we’re there, to promote not just UH, but the entire state. We’ve already given interviews to the Washington Post, and are working on National Public Radio and Good Morning America with the help of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, so we’re confident we can fulfill that goal as well.”

According to a release from the University, the event “celebrates the best in indigenous culture and modern science and demonstrate that the two worlds are being bridged through educational and community outreach.”

Hawaii sent up close to 150 delegates in 1989 to the same event.

More on the web:

Schedule of events: 

Details about UH presentations: