The annual Maui Whale Festival, hosted by the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), honors Maui’s wintertime guests, the humpback whales. The celebration began in November and continues until mid-May.
February brings the peak of the whale season, which is why the Maui Whale Festival is packed with activities this month. Coming up are three of its signature events: Whale Day on Saturday, Feb.19; the Maui Whale Count on Saturday, Feb. 26; and Keiki E.C.O. Day on Friday, Feb. 18.
“The Maui Whale Festival features so many fun events this month,” said PWF Founder and President Greg Kaufman. “Our goal is to draw together visitors and Maui residents of all ages and offer them opportunities to enjoy live music, local culture and learn about whales and the environment.”
Keiki E.C.O. Day (Educating Children Outdoors), organized and hosted by PWF, will be held on Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Kalama Park in Kïhei. More than 250 students from Wailuku Elementary, Montessori Hale o Keiki, and Kamali‘i Elementary School will attend this free event, with bus transportation provided at no charge by Kokua Foundation and PWF’s “No Child Left Indoors” scholarship fund.
Keiki will learn about vermicomposting (composting with worms), growing healthy snacks, navigating using a GPS system and protecting Maui’s forest and ocean environments through workshops offered by Maui Invasive Species Committee, East Maui Watershed, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, Community Work Day, Kïhei Charter School, Haleakalä National Park and the Hawai‘i Nature Center, all of whom are Keiki E.C.O. Day partners. PWF’s research, conservation and education staff will also be offering educational programs.
The children will also have the opportunity to tour an exhibit of 36,000 origami whales called “The Curtain of Whales” and be treated to a free concert by the Banana Slug String Band, an eco-oriented children’s musical group that uses costumes and catchy lyrics to inspire youngsters to take part in protecting the planet.
The goal is to lay the foundation for the development of an appreciation for the natural world, which will encourage our future leaders to cherish, care for and protect Hawai‘i’s natural beauty.
Saturday kicks off the Whale Day Celebration, which begins at 9 a.m. with the annual Parade of Whales in Kïhei. Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa will serve as the official Grand Marshal. This year’s theme is “Be Whale Aware.” The procession will begin on Alanui Keali‘i Drive, then proceed north along South Kïhei Road, ending at the Kïhei Library on Waimahaihai Street. The costumed sea characters and floats of all shapes and sizes sponsored by local organizations are always a big hit.
Whale Day, a free community event at Kalama Park from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., will feature live performances by a lineup of top entertainers from Hawai‘i. Performers include Cecilio & Kapono, John Cruz, George Kahumoku Jr., Anuhea, The Throwdowns, Marty Dread and Gail Swanson.
Whale Day, which serves as a fundraiser for marine education programs for Maui schoolchildren, also features food booths from popular Maui restaurants, a Made-on-Maui artisan’s fair, silent auction, Keiki Carnival, Wild & Wonderful Whale Regatta, environmental displays, the Curtain of 36,000 Origami Whales and much more!
On Saturday, Feb. 26, from 8 a.m. to noon, PWF will conduct the annual Great Maui Whale Count, during which citizens tally humpback whales seen along Maui’s shorelines. No experience is required and there is no cost to participate. PWF will provide the training and tools. For more information and to sign up as a counter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to these events, a special VIP whalewatch cruise with Kaufman is slated for Sunday, Feb. 20, departing from Mä‘alaea Harbor at 12:30 p.m.
Pacific Whale Foundation has also created a special Website at www.mauiwhalefestival.org to provide details about the festival. For additional information, call (808) 249-8811 or (800) WHALE11 (942-5311) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.