Catch that grain at rice festival

By Erika Engle 

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 16, 2010

Rice is a Hawaii staple so basic that huge bags of it fly out of supermarkets and membership stores during disaster alerts along with other can’t-live-withouts. The humble grain will soon have its own day in the sun at the first Hawaii Rice Festival, Sept. 11 at Aloha Tower Marketplace.

Hawaii Pacific Entertainment LLC is producing the event, co-founded by blogger Ed Sugimoto, said HPE owner Lincoln Jacobe. Not only does the duo want to make it an annual event, but they also want to “take it to various cities” on the mainland, Jacobe said.

The noon-to-8 p.m. festival, though on an unfortunate date in U.S. history, is during September because it has long been designated as National Rice Month by the USA Rice Federation. Yes, there really is a trade organization for everything. There is also a California Wild Rice Advisory Board, for instance, but your columnist digresses.

“The event is similar to the Spam Jam but focused around rice,” Jacobe said.

The festival will include cooking demonstrations and samples, a rice recipe contest, a Spam musubi eating contest and other games, and because this is Hawaii, a charity component. Attendees are asked to bring a bag of brown rice to donate to Lanakila Pacific, which offers programs and services to help build independence in adults with cognitive, physical or other challenges. Its most well-known program may be Lanakila Meals on Wheels, which provides hot, nutritious meals to senior citizens.

“We are still working on firming up all our event partners including vendors and sponsors as we speak, but aren’t able to make any announcements just yet,” said Jacobe. A Facebook pageTwitter profile and website have been established, and the last bears information for potential sponsors and exhibitors. There are also a few rice recipes there, but the USA Rice Federation has a wealth of them. Of course there are also ukubillion other rice recipes all over the Internet.

Hawaii has not always depended on 20-pound bags of Calrose rice from the store. Way back when everybody was a locavore, Hawaii rice farms flourished.

According to Star-Advertiser writer Nadine Kam and contributor Wanda Adams, rice was cultivated in at least 13 villages around Punaluu on Oahu starting in the late 1800s as well as in other parts of Oahu and on all major islands. The first commercial harvest was in 1862, and by 1899 Hawaii was the third-largest producer of rice in North America, behind Louisiana and South Carolina.

Haraguchi Mill in Hanalei, the last rice mill in Hawaii, closed in 1960 but is now a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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