Luau celebration kicks off Pacific Islander Heritage Month with food, culture, dancing

Nasinu Finau, a freshman population health major student from Lehi, performed her cultural dance at the Luau night Apr 17. The luau was held to showcase the Pacific Islander students and their vast customs, and students were able to participate and learn about their peer’s culture. Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

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Two burning Utah Tech University signs rest up front, bright colors are hung on the stage and leis are being handed out as community members and Utah Tech students gather for a luau.

To celebrate Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Utah Tech Pasefika Student Union and Utah Tech Student Association partnered together to host an evening full of performances, food and culture April 17.

Pacific Islander Heritage Month begins in May, but since we will not be in session, the event was held early. On the website, this month is described as “paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.”

“These events are really eye-opening to learn about a different culture,” Zamets, a junior sociology major from Riverside, California, said.

The night began with the handing out of leis as people entered through the gates. A lei is any series of objects strung together as a symbol of love, friendship, celebration, honor or greeting.

This was a way to welcome students and community members to the luau, while also sharing a little piece of education. Additionally, there was an informational table on traditional Polynesian leis available.

Food was then served through catering of Island Grinds to the guests as they waited for the performances to begin. Along with the catering, a drink bar was open where flavored mocktails were served with festive names like Honolulu and Aloha.

Another student, Saige Murray, a freshman radiography major from Brigham City, has been to luaus before, which inspired her to come to this event.

“They [luaus] are super fun and it’s really cool to see the dancers,” Murray said. “It’s fun seeing different parts of a culture and then trying different types of food.”

She said she also enjoys these events because she can meet new people and see a whole different side of campus she never knew. On top of receiving leis and enjoying food, multiple performances occurred throughout the night by PSU to represent culture through song and dance.

Annabelle Talivaa is a member of PSU and was one of the dancers in the Samoan Siva performance. During the performance, Talivaa and her fellow dancers were dressed in bright colors to represent their culture.

“It’s been a lot of hours and hours of practicing to make sure we’re lining up and in sync together,” Talivaa said.

The final performance of the night was a Tau’olunga, which is where one girl dances in a semi-circle of friends, fellow performers and family members. Different chants and applause were shouted as they encouraged her on for the closing number. For Talivaa, this was her favorite part of the evening.

Following this performance, the dance floor opened and audience members joined the stage to dance the evening away.

Talivaa said: “It was nice to see my family come out and support us. In fact, other people too…help[ed] support and represent my culture.”