Portuguese Day in the Park Highlights Dreams for Future Home
The Dennis Aguiar Portuguese Day in the Park has been a popular Hilo tradition for over two decades.
Sunday’s event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gilbert Carvalho Park, happens to fall on the same day as the National Football League’s biggest game. Many of the traditional staples of the event are still there, like the fast-selling pickled onions and malasadas. The Hawai’i County Band will perform various selections at 10:45 a.m., many of them carrying a Portuguese theme, with selected pieces arranged by Rodney Wong.
This year’s event, however, will take on a larger theme. It will kick off the fundraising drive toward the Portuguese Cultural and Educational Center, which is slated to be built on a piece of land located at the corner of Ponahawai and Komohana streets. The land was donated by Frank Deluz, an original member of the Hawai’i Island Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.
Deluz donated the land in 2006, four years after a 501(c)(3) was set up to create the center, with the hopes of building a permanent home for the memories and significant historical details about the Portuguese, including their migration to the islands.
“One of the things we’ve done is to put in a grant-in-aid with the Legislature, and hopefully, much of the funding will come from there,” said Marlene Hapai, HIPCC president. “In this event, we will ask for the public’s support. We’re going to have them sign some papers and say ‘Yes! We support this.’ and so it won’t cost them a penny.”
The land on the property has already been partially cleared, and Fred Erskine of Honoka’a, who now lives on Oahu, drew up the preliminary landscaping and building plans pro bono. All that’s left to make the dream a reality is to find funding, with the legislature playing a key role in the project’s fate.
Hapai said that an opening date has already been set for the center, coinciding with an important date that connects the Portuguese to the islands.
“We’re hoping to have this center finished on Sept. 30, 2018, which will be the 140th anniversary of the first ship, the Priscilla, carrying the first Portuguese from Madera to Hawai’i,” Hapai explained.
One of the key pieces of information that the proposed center would hope to permanently house is ship manifests and logs that help document the 29 ship sailings from Portugal to Hawai’i over a 35-year period. It will be one of the featured tables at Sunday’s event, manned by Dolores Ramos, who has provided these records for all but one of the 22 annual Portuguese Day events.
“What we’d like to do is highlight each ship in the center, with a picture of the ship from the Maritime museums, the last names, and little snippets from the ship logs,” said Hapai.
Another goal of the center is to connect families in Hawai’i to those back in Portugal through video conferencing, connecting the dots of the large Portuguese lineage in Hawai’i to family connections abroad.
Several Portuguese clubs from around the island are taking part in different presentations at the event. For example, the Portuguese Cultural Club of Hamakua will teach the popular game of Bishca, and the quick-selling malasadas are made by the Big Island Portuguese Culture Club.
And for those who are worried about missing out on the pickled onions and sweet bread, Hapai and Larkin Correia, event organizer, say that they have tripled the amount of pickled onions made this year and have increased the amount of sweet bread for sale.
Other event highlights include Portuguese dancing and genealogy inside Pi’ihonua Gymnasium, as well as a Portuguese language demonstration.
At the conclusion of the County Band’s performance, Linus Tavares’ Portuguese Bean Soup will be served to those attending the event, along with milk bread from the park’s stone oven, or forno, which is made by Evelyn Pacheco. The soup and bread are served complimentary.
Hapai says that there will be a donation box at the event for those that would like to donate to the HIPCC and its goal for the center.