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Island culture dances into SCV

Locals embrace heritage at Hart Park’s first-ever Pacific Islander Festival

Posted: May 10, 2014 10:26 p.m.
Updated: May 10, 2014 10:26 p.m.

Rachel Pickler dances a traditional Maori dance with the Kalakeke Pacific Island Dance Company at the first Santa Clarita Pacific Islander Festival held at William S. Hart Park on Saturday.

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Santa Clarita’s first Pacific Islander Festival drew large crowds to William S. Hart Park on Saturday.

More than 300 people were estimated to have attended the festival throughout the day, in addition to the more than 200 volunteers cycling in and out.

Karen Schantz usually works grounds maintenance for Los Angeles County Parks, but was asked to come over to the festival in the morning to help drive shuttles of attendees from the parking area to the festivities.

“I’ve talked to a couple people and they’re really excited about the whole Polynesian thing,” she said. “Hopefully, they like the turnout and come back next year.”

Many of those in attendance came to watch family and friends perform. Some attendees, like Linda Bernal and her daughter Crystal, were inspired by the dancers.

“I think I’m going to join the group,” Bernal said. “I’ve been trying to get everyone I know to come.”

The festival, held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at William S. Hart Park, featured performances of traditional dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand and Samoa.

“We’re trying to share this culture with the community,” said Tyana Farrell.

Tyana’s mother, Gladys Farrell, and her husband, Kin, own the Kalakeke Pacific Island Dance Company in Santa Clarita and were the main force behind organizing the festival.

They began planning for this year’s festival in July 2013 after teaching some of their dance classes at Hart Park.

“My mom was the one who always wanted to put on a festival out here,” Tyana Farrell said. “It was always kind of in the back of our minds.”

The family would like to make the festival an annual event.

“It’s better than we expected ... I’m very pleased with the outcome,” Gladys Farrell said.

The Farrells’ students performed a variety of dances, ranging from traditional Hawaiian hulas to Maori dances.

“It’s fun to actually do a show here,” said Francie Gallegos, who dances in the company along with her daughter, 11-year-old Karicia.

“I look forward to doing it again,” she said.

Vendors were also happy with the large turnout.

Rika Traxler’s booth for her business, Island Mana Designs, stayed busy in between performances.

She said it was a “really good turnout for the first annual” event. Traxler, a former dancer herself, travels to many festivals and Polynesian dance competitions to sell her handmade costumes, headdresses and jewelry.

“It’s really family-like — everybody knows each other,” she said of Santa Clarita’s festival.

For Tapita Lauermann and her mother, Nathalie Danwyck, it was truly a family affair. There were four generations of women from their Tahitian family present.

“Did you notice that every car here had a Hawaiian girl sticker on it? I was like, ‘Our people are here,’” said Lauermann’s daughter, Erin.



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