SOUTH MAUI - It's the time of year when the humpback whales are filling the seas around Maui with their haunting underwater songs and their dramatic, high-energy behaviors. Starting on Feb. 1 and continuing through March 31, the 2014 Maui Whale Festival will celebrate the presence of the whales off Maui and raise public awareness about the need to protect these endangered marine mammals and their ocean habitats.
The festival is organized and hosted by the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation. Complete information about the festival can be found at www.mauiwhalefestival.org.
The Run and Walk for the Whales on Saturday, Feb. 1, gets the Maui Whale Festival off to a running start. This annual race offers a choice of a 2.5-mile walk, 5K run, 10K run and half-marathon run. The start and finish line is at the Maalaea Harbor Shops. Participants receive a free performance Run and Walk for the Whales shirt, water and Gatorade stations along the course, and post-race festivities that include a continental breakfast and entertainment by Marty Dread. Runners will have professional chip timing. Top finishers will receive medals and pairs of whalewatch tickets, and all participants will be entered in drawings for additional whalewatch tickets and other prizes. Register online at www.flpregister.com /69 by midnight on Jan. 29 to save on your entry fee. Additional information and downloadable entry forms are available at www.mauiwhalefestival.org.
On Friday, Feb. 14, Pacific Whale Foundation will present "Whales Under the Stars," a free talk and multimedia presentation by whale research pioneer, activist and author Greg Kaufman, the founder and executive director of Pacific Whale Foundation. The talk takes place from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Kalama Park's ballfield. Folding chairs will be available, or bring your own lawn chair and picnic blanket. Admission is free.
Maui's Parade of Whales takes place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, along South Kihei Road from Alanui Keali'i Drive to Waimaihaihai Street. Legendary rock icon Mick Fleetwood, co-founder and drummer of Fleetwood Mac, will be the parade grand marshall, accompanied by colorful floats, dancers, marchers, musicians and more.
Immediately following the parade, the 34th annual World Whale Day Celebration begins at 10 a.m. and continues through 7 p.m. This free community event will feature a special guest performance by Mick Fleetwood and the R.T. Metoyer Blues, Rock and Soul Revue, plus entertainment by John Cruz, Anuhea, Na Hoa, Marty Dread, Ekolu, George Kahumoku Jr., Dr. Nat and Rio Ritmo and Manute'a Nui E. World Whale Day also includes a children's carnival, huge "Made on Maui" artisans fair, food booths, environmental displays and more. The event is sponsored by County of Maui Office of Parks and Recreation, county Office of Economic Development, First Wind, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Menehune Water, Pacific Radio Group and Maui Weekly.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, volunteer counters will assemble along Maui's shores to participate in The Great Whale Count led by Pacific Whale Foundation's research team. The public is invited to assist in this annual count. All training and materials are provided, and it's a great way to learn about whales and whale research. There's no cost to participate. To volunteer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many more events, including special cruises, two evenings of free talks in March (including a presentation by the producer of the documentary "Blackfish"), naturalist-staffed stations where you can learn about whales and much more. For details, visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org or call Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 249-8811, extension 1.