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5 Big Island food festivals to look out for 2018

One of the best places for food and cultural festivals is the Big Island of Hawaii. The reasons are simple – the festivals really get the community behind them so it’s a big production, and after the festival or before, the Big Island has almost endless exploring and relaxing options. And, as Hawaii is trying to grow more of its own food as well as export, you get to see the latest in sustainability first hand. Here is a lineup of the best festivals to consider for 2018. Taste of the Hawaiian Range For 22 years, the beef is at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival, held in September. It provides a platform for sustainable agricultural education showcasing pasture-raised beef. Like other festivals, there is a bevy of those involved, like the local ranching association, to make sure the event really delivers both fun and understanding. This is a little more about the steak than the sizzle, as you get to interact with the farmers and ranchers producing beef, fruits and vegetables. New this year are outdoor, ag-themed activities geared for families. During the ticketed evening Taste, attendees graze at culinary stations where local chefs serve dishes using a variety of meat cuts. Big Island Chocolate Festival Held April 27-28, the two-day event gives you the view of overall cacao growing, personal identification with the farmers, and lastly the chance to savor local chocolate. The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel provides a magnificent setting with a great blend of personal space in the rooms, yet a nice conference center, which is about five minutes from the beach. The Big Island is on the edge of the zone to grow cacao, so you get a little schooling on what it takes to grow the bean and turn it into chocolate, which also includes a plantation tour. The second day has world renown chocolate chefs who demonstrate and teach you how to make a variety of chocolate creations. The festival ends with a melt-down gala fundraiser where culinary students, chefs and chocolatiers vie for awards in sweet and savory categories and attendees enjoy delicious eats and chocolate body painting. Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival With everything from a ritual tea ceremony to tours of a ginger farm, the draw for this February event is how the upcountry community comes to together to celebrate the “cherry blossom viewing party.” The 25th annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival has a full lineup of free, multi-cultural performing arts and hands-on demonstrations, plus over 150 crafters and food booths. It might be best described as Cherry Blossom meets the community fair. Waimea Ocean Film Festival For full immersion in all things ‘ocean,’ while surrounded by turquoise blue on all sides, this nine-day festival has an amazing diversity of ocean, adventure and inspiring films generally attended by the producer/director to add a behind-the-scenes look at the story. Starting on January 1, the festival starts at The Fairmont Orchid, Mauna Kea Resort and various Waimea venues and then continues January 5 through 9 at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. From heart-pounding surf films, adventure stories and generally epic or inspiring stories, to films about ocean health, marine life or Hawaiian history and culture, this is a festival with something for everyone. Ka‘u Coffee Festival Coffee is not native to Hawaii, it was introduced in 1813 by the Spanish physician, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. In the Ka‘u district, coffee was being cultivated as early as 1894 by J.C. Searle. The competition for labor by the large sugar operations meant coffee had to take an export back seat for 100 years until the sugar operations dwindled. Renowned to have a taste combining chocolate, cherry and even coconut, the beans from Ka‘u are rising in appreciation, and now have their own 10th annual festival April 27-May 6 in Pahala. From stargazing to a Miss Ka‘u Coffee Pageant, to organized hikes and farm tours, this is big fun at a small-town pace. Not to be missed is the May 5th Hoolaulea, with plenty coffee sampling by growers, ethnic island foods, non-stop Hawaiian entertainment and guided tasting of Ka‘u coffee prepared multiple ways.

Neil Wolkodoff

Neil Wolkodoff is a golf and travel writer from Denver, Colorado. He covers golf, dining, activities and accommodations from the luxury and unique perspective. He has even been golfing with goats.

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  1. I can imagine that celebrating in Hawaii is done properly! I’d love to go there someday, but it’s so far from me! I would definitely go for the Cherry Blossom festival, that sounds like a wonderful idea. Who doesn’t love cherry blossoms?! The coffee festival is also calling my name!

  2. The little town of “Waimea” might not be that big but it makes up for it in by their generous spirit and community involvement. Definitely worth checking out – Cherry Blossom Festival

  3. The little town of “Waimea” might not be that big but it makes up for it with their generous spirit and community involvement. Definitely worth checking out – Cherry Blossom Festival

  4. Food festivals are a lot of fun! The Big Island Chocolate Festival would be perfect for me. Two days of eating and learning about chocolate sounds ideal. The Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival also sounds lovely, cherry blossom’s are so beautiful so that would be a great one to visit, thanks!

  5. Samantha, both are great but for different reasons. While the CBlossom is only one day, the community rolls out. The BICF is good because of the blend of learning about agriculture, recipies, and of course tasting at the Gala!

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