Free Dinner

PROVO (Candi Higley Daily Herald) — Thousands are expected to attend this year’s fourth annual Utah Pasifika Festival, which is taking place on 100 East in downtown Provo.

Polynesian food, music, entertainment and vendors are just part of the festival, which continues tonight and will culminate with a Po Hiva, a non-denominational fireside, on Sunday evening.

“We love the opportunity to share the Polynesian culture with people,” said Amber Mitchell, the nonprofit consultant for the festival. “Everyone enjoys a good luau, with good food, music and dancing. And we have all of that here at the festival.”

Last year, 14,000 people attended the three-day event.

Saturday morning started off with a visit from Brigham Young University’s Cosmo the Cougar. Cosmo signed posters and danced with kids while the morning’s musical acts prepared.

“[Friday] night the place was packed and we had lots of bands and musical performances,” Mitchell said. “Today we will continue with our Polynesian entertainment and music, but we have also invited some Latino and Native American groups to perform as well.”

More than 20 food vendors are in attendance to give festival-goers a taste of the islands. From Hawaiian chicken to teriyaki chicken to Fijian curry, some attendees say the food is the best part.

Laina Gali has been attending the festival for the past four years and says that each year it just keeps getting better.

“There are more and more vendors and the entertainment is great,” Gali said. “I love the food.”

Lehi residents Paul and Nicole Fawson had never heard of the festival but just happened to be driving by and decided to stop.

“This is our first time,” Nicole Fawson said. “It is turning out to be really fun.”

Besides entertainment and food, Mitchell said festival planners want to create a family-friendly vibe at the event. She also said education at the event is important.

“We want to promote health in our community,” Mitchell said. “This year we have booths to promote being more active and information about diabetes. We also have the American Red Cross here so that attendees can donate blood as well.”

Kathy Paulsen, with the American Red Cross, was assisting the first two donors on Saturday morning.

“There is always a need for blood,” Paulsen said. “By being here at the festival it reminds the public to do their part. There isn’t a way to make blood so we need people to donate. Even if we just get a few units today, that is a few lives saved.”

Organizers of the festival are also working to make the festival a 501c3 nonprofit.

“We want to be able to recognize Polynesians who are giving back in our community,” Mitchell said. “As a nonprofit we will have a new focus each year that will promote health or bring our community together.”

For more information about the festival and non-denominational fireside, please visit www.utpasifikafestival.com.