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Local Hawaiians take stage for luau

The San Marcos Community Center was transformed into a Hawaiian island the evening of Sept. 20. Two hundred guests enjoyed a feast of island cuisine while the band, Kanikapila, played a string of tunes. Then the audience was treated to a lively suite of hula dances, a mixture of ancient and more modern styles.
The luau was an annual fundraiser put on by the Halau Hula O Ka’eo, a 50-member association of Hawaiians and Hawaii enthusiasts, to fund a host of activities including trips to Hawaii and participation in dance seminars.
“It’s an enrichment community,” Mahealani, the halau president, said. “Primarily, what’s taught here is the dance, but the culture is what we’re really trying to instill. To bring the Hawaiian culture and perpetuate it.”
Many of the members of the halau, founded eight years ago and led by Kelly Escalona, are ex-pat Hawaiians drawn to the group to enjoy a taste of their former home. While several found the halau through Escalona’s Hawaiian-themed Escondido store, Hawaiiana, which she closed two years ago, Escalona feels the main draw has always been the halau’s strong public presence.
“People find out about us because of our community service,” Escalona said, explaining that the halau works with charities like the American Cancer Society and Michelle’s House, a home for AIDS patients in Vista. The group also participates in cultural festivals and performs for schools.
The San Marcos Civic Center might seem an odd place to be the hub of North County’s Hawaiian community, as virtually none of the halau’s members live in the city. On the other hand, with its stage, practice rooms, kitchen and playground, the center provides a perfect meeting place, according to dancer Lisa Rodriguez.
“It’s a local spot for all of us to meet,” the San Dimas resident said. “It works out wonderfully.” Escalona added that the city provides advertisement for the halau, for which the group is grateful.
The halau is open to anyone interested in learning about Hawaiian/Polynesian dance and culture.
“We try to keep it very fun,” Rodriguez said. “Very local. Very family-oriented.”
For more information, call (760) 807-6790.