By Rachel Kunjummen Paulose
AAP contributing writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 23, 2014) — The state of Hawaii, America’s gateway to commerce to Asia and the Pacific Islands, hosted a “Taste of Hawaii” reception July 23 on Capitol Hill to promote the fiftieth state. The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii event featured Hawaiian business, food, and multicultural heritage.
The event to bring “Hawaii to the Hill” took place in the Kennedy Caucus Room with speeches by Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and Chamber of Commerce Hawaii president and chief executive officer Sherry Menor-McNamara.
A packed and festive room shouted “Aloha” in greeting each speaker, including Senator Hirono. Opening the event, Sen. Hirono acknowledged the buyout crowd, exclaiming, “This is how we do it in Hawaii! This is our Aloha spirit!”
“Taste of Hawaii” was the first event simply showcasing Hawaii on Capitol Hill. Aidan James, a 14-year-old ukulele player, and the Aloha Boys provided live entertainment at the open house style event. Foods featured included Hawaiian staples: Kalua pig with cabbage, Taro and sweet potato snacks, macadamia nuts, chocolates, native salts, and island grown gourmet coffee. Senate staffers festooned guests with leis on arrival. Vendors handed out samples of their products, including artwork; flowers; and food, drink, and spices.
Sen. Hirono initiated the celebration and approached the Chamber about organizing the event. Event organizers emphasized their desire to highlight the diversity of Hawaiian business, including tourism, military operations, renewable energy, and agriculture.
Event participant Laura Cristobal of Salty Wahine said, “This particular event is different because we are actually able to talk to legislators about legislation, exports, and shipping. This is a big scale event.”
Friends of Iolani Palace Executive Director Kippen de Alba Chu commented, “We are here to highlight the cultural resources of Hawaii and represent the industry, non-profits and museums.”
Iolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy and is a significant tourist attraction for the islands. Jan Axeen, a representative of Pacifica Hawaii, spoke on behalf of her sister Nancy Gove, who created the business as a small business start-up.
Handing out generous samples of the company’s specialized salts to attendees, Axeen said, “We are trying to just have people be aware of her product.”
Hirono organized the event to help raise Hawaii’s profile in Washington. She said that additional publicity particularly needful following the death of the late Daniel K. Inouye, who brought home significant funding programs during his long tenure as Hawaii’s U.S. Senator.
Nearly 50 Hawaii companies participated in the event, including: Ansaldo Honolulu, Big Island Bee Company, Big Island Candies, Boeing Hawaii, County of Maui, Cyanotech, Fruitique, Green Point Nurseries, Haute Confectionery Boutique, Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies, Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, Hawaii Farm Bureau, Hawaii Medical Service Association, Hawaiian Chip Company, Hawaiian Host, Hawaiian Sun, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company, Hawaiian Hurricane Company, Healthcare Financial Management Association, Highway Inn, Innovate Hawaii/High Technology Development Corporation, Iolani Palace, Kamakura Corporation, Kauai Chamber, Kauai Coffee Company, Kauai Kookie Company, Koloa Rum, Kona Kohala Chamber, Kona Mountain Coffee, Maui Chamber of Commerce, Maui Fruit Jewels, Maui Office of Economic Development, Maui Preserved, Mauna Loa, Navatek, Orchid Lei Company, Pacific Allied Products, Pacific Gateway, Pacifica Hawaii Salt, The Queen’s Health Systems, Really Ono, Salty Wahine/Aunty Lilikoi, Sweet Paradise Company, and Tiki Shark Art.