PCC celebrates 27th annual Moanikeala Hula Festival

Hula dancers from Japan

The Kamaluwehiokapalai halau hula from Japan

Story and photos by Mike Foley
[First published in the Polynesian Cultural Center blog, February 2017]

As it has for the past several years, the Polynesian Cultural Center hosted its annual Moanikeala Hula Festival on February 4, 2017, in a perfect setting — under the monkeypod tree in the Hawaiian Village. [Read more…]

President Uchtdorf dedicates addition to Polynesian Cultural Center

Hukilau Marketplace part of effort to upgrade facility



By Mike Foley
For the Church News
of September 6, 2015


President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated a major new addition to the Church-affiliated Polynesian Cultural Center here on Aug. 29, after which he dedicated the new Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Church-owned property adjacent to the center.

Speaking from the new Hukilau Marketplace at the PCC, President Uchtdorf recalled he and his wife, Harriet, who accompanied him, first visted the attraction in 1976, and have enjoyed it ever since. “Your friendship, your kindness, your openness, your spirit of aloha is really what makes the difference,” he said.

President Uchtdorf was also accompanied to Hawaii by President Kim B. Clark of the Seventy, who is Commissioner of the Church Educational Sysgtem, and his wife, Susan; and Bishop Gérald K. Caussé, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and his wife, Valérie.

[Read more…]

Reflections of ‘We Are Samoa’

For the past 20 years the Polynesian Cultural Center has put on an annual “We Are Samoa” traditional arts and skills festival for high school students across Oahu. Here are some of my selected images from the May 11, 2013, festival:

Te Aroha Nui Maori group returns to PCC

[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published in PCC’s Imua Polenesia newsletter, August 2005]

In the summer of 1963 the late Wendell B. Mendenhall, president of all LDS labor missionaries in the Pacific, asked 148 New Zealand Maori to help get the Polynesian Cultural Center ready for its opening on October 12th that year. The group, all volunteers who paid their own expenses, stayed for six weeks and not only put the finishing touches on the Center, but also dominated the PCC’s first night show with their lively action songs and beautiful harmony. They also put on concerts in California and Utah before returning home.

On Aug. 5, 2005, 48 surviving members returned to PCC for the first time as a group to participate in the Whakataetae festival. In accordance with Maori custom, PCC villagers and Maori community members welcomed them and the other Whakataetae visitors with chants, a wero challenge, speeches, songs and hongi [nose pressing] greetings.

Members of the Te Aroha Nui group and others enter the marae
at the Polynesian Cultural Center 

[Read more…]

‘Uncle John’ celebrates 25 years of China friendship

[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published in the PCC Imua Polenesia newsletter, June 2007]

John Muaina (fourth from left, back row), his wife Luella, Carolyn and Eric Shumway
and Napua
Baker (right, back row) meet with AEM alumni in Xi’an, China 

Polynesian Cultural Center Vice President of Human Resources John Muaina recently represented the PCC as he and his wife, Luella, toured China with BYU-Hawaii President Eric B. Shumway, his party and the university’s 62-voice Concert Choir for three weeks in May to celebrate the successful completion of 25 years of BYUH/PCC’s unique Asian Executive Management (AEM) internship training program.

[Read more…]

History missionary traces close PCC/BYU-Hawaii ties

[Story and photo by Mike Foley: Published originally in the online  BYU-Hawaii “Newsroom,” September 26, 2003]

Elder BritschElder R. Lanier Britsch [pictured at left], a service missionary working on writing the 40-year history of the Polynesian Cultural Center, traced the close ties between BYU-Hawaii and the popular visitor attraction during the University’s Sept. 25 devotional address.

“The history of the Polynesian Cultural Center is closely bound to BYU-Hawaii,” said Elder Britsch, the former BYUH Vice President of Academics and author of several history books on the growth of the Church in Asia and the Pacific. He is collaborating with the Center’s first employee and long-time executive, T. David Hannemann, on the PCC history book.

[Read more…]

Elder Ballard speaks on BYUH, PCC impact

[Story by Mike Foley: Published originally in the BYU-Hawaii online “Newsroom,” June 11, 2008]

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the TwelveElder M. Russell Ballard [pictured at left] of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, emphasized the importance of the generosity of members of the BYU-Hawaii and Polynesian Cultural Center President’s Leadership Council (PLC) at their April 7, 2008, meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, by underscoring the role the Lord would have the sister institutions accomplish, especially in Asia.

[Read more…]

New PCC night show part of a long tradition

[Story and photos by Mike Foley: Originally published August 17, 2009]

The Tongans welcome the young couple
into their lives and community

The Polynesian Cultural Center, where I have worked off-and-on in various student, full-time and freelance capacities for the past 41 years, premiered its latest night show — Ha: Breath of Life — on August 14, 2009. During those years I’ve seen almost all of the previous productions, and in a word, I think the new show is fantastic. [Read more…]

PCC World Fireknife preliminaries: May 14, 2009

[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published May 15, 2009]

PCC World Fireknife competition, May 2009The senior men’s preliminary round in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 17th annual World Fireknife Championship on May 14, 2009 saw a smaller field of entrants, but a tougher level of competition as the skilled “warriors” once again put their skills with the flaming knives in front of a panel of judges and an wildly appreciative audience.

After all the flames were all extinguished and the drums silenced, the judges selected nine of the senior men (age 18-and-up) to advance to the semifinals. They are:

Jeurell Lavata’i, American Samoa
Dana Teai, Tahiti
Pati Levasa, Samoa (via Hong Kong)
Brandon “Fue” Maneafaiga, Waianae
Joseph Cadousteau, Tahiti
Mikaele Oloa, Waialua, Oahu
Lopeti Tu’ua, Lahaina, Maui
Viavia “VJ” Tiumalu Jr., Orlando, Florida
Chesrveigh “Jessie” Usiel, Guam

See a sampling of my pictures that will be posted on the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Samoan World Fireknife Championship web site, http://www.polynesia.com/fireknife/fire.html . . . and at http://www.polynesia.com/blog [Read more…]

With the queen at the Great Council

Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation [Story and bottom photos by Mike Foley, partially published on April 24, 2009]

I remember the first time I saw HRH Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain: It was during her coronation on June 2, 1953 [pictured at right] — and one reason that event sticks in my mind is because it was also the first time I can remember watching a program on the new medium of television.

Our school teacher asked us to watch the historical coronation of the young queen on one of the first worldwide television broadcasts, and she made arrangements for kids whose parents didn’t have a TV yet (that was still a few years in the future for us) to watch with a classmate whose family did.

The program aired during school time, so they even let us out early. Only black-and-white TV was available in those days in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I grew up — it would be another 15 years in the future before I started watching color TV regularly — and the image was somewhat fuzzy; but the experience has stuck in my mind ever since.

As has the time in October 1982 when I personally got within about 10 feet of Queen Elizabeth as a photographer for the Polynesian Cultural Center: [Read more…]

Sharing old photos

I’m slowly going through some of my old back-up files (in preparation for donating copies to the BYU-Hawai Archives), and picked a few shots taken primarily for the Kaleo community newspaper or the Polynesian Cultural Center that I thought you might enjoy seeing. Some of these have previously been published, while others have only been seen by me before now.

E hoa: Congratulations, Alfred


It is with great pleasure that I congratulate my young friend and former colleague, Puataata (if you ever wondered what the P. stands for) Alfred Grace, who was recently named as the first-ever Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Polynesian Cultural Center. I can honestly say I knew Al back when.

I first met Al when he  recently returned from serving a Latter-day Saint mission in his native New Zealand (actually he’s from that thriving blink-stop town of Turangi in the North Island) and was working as a sales guide in the Polynesian Cultural Center Reservations Department — along with fellow Kiwi and Turangi mate Varen Berryman, as well as Francis Ho Ching.

They were terrific sales people, and I think that Kiwi accent helped Al and Varen close more than a few VIP sales. For his part, Al has always been quick to recognize the late Fia Moea’i (Mau) Sataraka, PCC’s long-time Reservations manager who helped train those young men, and many others…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I recall the story… [Read more…]

Some help with the Aborigines

In the early 1990s the management team at the Polynesian Cultural Center was trying to develop a series of “special events” to help overcome one of the periodic downturns in the visitor industry: The idea being to offer something new or different that would encourage people to visit, including some of those who have been before. Interestingly, the PCC’s Haunted Lagoon spooky canoe ride in October 2008 and the current A Gift for Sadie Christmas canoe ride are recent examples.

But I’m thinking of our earlier efforts, some of which are still going strong — the Samoan World Fire Knife Dance competition being the best example. Others were one-time hits… [Read more…]

Not just a writer

I’ve done tons of writing over the past 35 years, and have been a relatively successful freelance writer for the past eight years (prior to that I usually wrote as part of my regular job assignments)…but I’m actually interested in all the digital media: web building, still and motion imagery, web movies, etc.

Check out one of my latest web videos on the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Christmas canoe ride.