Honolulu Festival Canceled, FESTPAC Hawaii Postponed Due To Coronavirus

Mar 2, 2020

Updated: 3/3/20, 2:50 p.m.

The Honolulu Festival has canceled all events in response to the coronavirus crisis, organizers said in a news release Tuesday. The festival that draws thousands of visitors to the islands had been scheduled to run from March 6 through March 8, but has been halted "to help prevent the potential transmission of the coronavirus in Hawaii," according to the festival's statement. It joins another major festival FESTPAC in changing plans following the outbreak.

Organizers of the Festival of the Pacific Arts and Culture announced Monday they were suspending plans to hold the event in Hawaii this June. While the 11-day event known as “FESTPAC” has been postponed, it is not clear when it may be held.

The organization’s website says organizers are stressing “the priority of health and safety for Hawaii residents and for all festival participants, and will continue to monitor developments surrounding COVID-19.”

State Sen. Kalani English, chairman of the Hawaii FESTPAC Commission, told HPR in an interview on Tuesday that concerns over the health of Hawaii residents and the delegations traveling from FESTPAC members led organizers to postpone the event as a precautionary measure.

But the Hana senator also said that despite the delay, the festival will still come to Hawaii.

"We are going to do the festival. Probably sometime next year in the summer months," he said.

English said Hawaii would work with the 28 member states of the festival to find a new date. Events will still be held at the Hawaii Convention Center and will be free to the public.

The last FESTPAC was held in 2016 in Guam, which organizers say drew 90,000 visitors.

The festival is held every four years and travels from location to location around the Pacific. Started as a way to preserve traditional cultural practices, it was first held in Fiji as the South Pacific Arts Festival in 1972. 

The Honolulu Festival Foundation made the decision to cancel the 26th annual festival following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, state of Hawaii and Japan government to cancel or postpone large gatherings.

"We apologize for the disappointment our decision to cancel this year's Honolulu Festival causes for anyone who has looking forward to enjoying this annual celebration of cultural performances and the arts," said Hiroyuki "Keith" Kitagawa, foundation president.

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hawaii, but Kitagawa said they festival's cancelation is the "responsible action to help protect the public's safety."

All festival events, including the popular Nagaoka Fireworks Show over Waikiki, have been canceled.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.