Flag-throwers from Italy will be cheek to jowl with acrobats from Japan when Honolulu's annual pan-Pacific festival reaches across the Atlantic for the first time.
Gruppo Sbandieratori e Musici, a group of 20 performers from Faenza, Italy, will be the first Europeans to participate at the Honolulu Festival from March 11 to 13.
The Italians will showcase the ancient sport of flag throwing, in which team members dress in medieval uniforms and toss flags high into the air to the sound of vintage drums and trumpets.
The festival, which has been held for more than two decades, is a celebration of Hawaii’s cultural links to Pacific Rim nations. Hawaiian hula dancers and Japanese taiko drummers take to the stage and the street during the event.
The festival underscores historic bonds between Japan and Hawaii through musical performances, dances, a children’s carnival and a Pacific-themed craft show. Except for the Friendship Gala on March 11, all events are free.
And this year, there's a World War II connection.
With the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor nine months away, the war and its aftermath will be remembered during a symposium titled “Japanese in Hawaii: From Plantation to Pearl Harbor to Peace.”
It starts at 2 p.m. March 12 at the Honolulu Convention Center, one of several venues at which the festival will be held.
One of the celebration’s biggest events, the Grand Parade, will march down Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki’s main drag, starting at 4:30 p.m. March 13.
The parade will showcase hundreds of performers, including students from Japan’s Morioka College, who will dance down the avenue to the sounds of traditional drums and flutes.
Japanese acrobats also will entertain crowds as they balance “kanto” on their heads and shoulders. Adorned with lanterns, the large bamboo poles each weigh more than 100 pounds.
The festival ends at 8:30 p.m. March 13 with a fireworks show over Waikiki Beach, provided by Nagaoka Fireworks.
If you're traveling to Hawaii during festival time, here's a day-by-day calendar of events.