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Hawaii prepares for 50th anniversary

March 11, 2008
By

from KPUA
Hawaii prepares for 50th anniversary

By Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) _ When Hawaii celebrates the 50th anniversary of statehood next year, organizers envision a grand Waikiki parade and other events celebrating a half-century of cultural integration and economic growth.

No events are final, but planners have been meeting since November to decide on an appropriate way to remember the golden anniversary of the nation’s youngest state on Aug. 21, 2009.

Hawaii marks the 49th anniversary of Congress’ approval of statehood Wednesday.

“I can see why some people would want to celebrate it, others would want to observe it and others will reject it entirely,” said Arnie Saiki, an independent Web developer who created statehoodhawaii.org.

The festivities will highlight the islands’ accomplishments since 1959, and there also could be educational events to discuss the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy that eventually led to statehood, said Kippen de Alba Chu, chairman of the 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission.

There won’t be accommodations for those who reject the United States and claim Hawaii is still an independent nation, he said.

“They will probably organize their own events, but that’s outside our scope,” he said. “Once we became a state, it’s hard to reverse. It put us on equal footing with the rest of the United States.”

In addition to the Waikiki parade, Chu foresees the potential for commemorative aloha shirts, license plates and stamps.

The anniversary could be used to hold community discussions on Hawaii’s history, Native Hawaiian rights and efforts to preserve the islands for the next 50 years, he said.

“I’m hoping that it’s a celebration,” said Rep. Ryan Yamane, D-Waipahu-Mililani, chairman of the House Tourism and Culture Committee. “However, those who were impacted by the overthrow have every right to have their say as well. … Maybe it’s a time we can reflect on how much Hawaii has changed.”

One idea would be for Hawaii to host a Makahiki festival as part of the party, where islanders across the Pacific could visit to participate in activities including sports, hula dancing, singing and eating, Saiki said.

Ah Quon McElrath, a labor union activist who rallied for statehood decades ago, said she wants the anniversary to emphasize how the workers rights’ movement built momentum for Hawaii’s admission into the union.

“Let’s make people understand the history,” said McElrath, a commission member. “Many people who have grown up and come to Hawaii don’t realize what the labor movement did to get us statehood.”

The commission requested $500,000 from the state budget to pay for the anniversary events.

The Senate Committee on Economic Development and Taxation approved the measure Tuesday, but lawmakers haven’t decided on how much money to appropriate. The full House of Representatives previously passed the bill.

(Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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