Pure Aloha Festival dances into Rio

The Pure Aloha Festival starts today at the Rio, its new location, and runs through Sunday. And, according to officials behind the festival, the "purity" of the event begins with the weather forecast.

"The weather's gonna be great - 83 to 87 degrees. Just like Hawaii," says Shawn Santana, president of Vizzun Entertainment, the production company responsible for Pure Aloha.

The big draw at this biannual event lies in the entertainment and endless food options. For the former, patrons can take in the hula dance performed by dance groups from all across the country. It's a 45-minute performance that features as many as 170 hula dancers, aged 3 to 80 years old.

For an additional charge, the festival offers concerts. Friday night features J Boog, an internationally recognized Hawaiian and reggae music artist. Santana expects this show, which will appeal to the 18- to 35-year-old guests, to sell out. Saturday night's performer is Willie K, known for everything from Hawaiian music to jazz to opera. Tickets for each show are $30 in advance and $35 the day of the event.

As for food, 25 vendors will be cooking up fare from the many nationalities represented in Hawaii, including but not limited to Samoan, Korean, Japanese, Tongan and Filipino food. As for the staples folks can expect at the festival, Santana says white rice, macaroni salad and "lots of barbecue" will be available.

But the longest food-related line at each festival is always for the shaved ice.

"We ship in 24 tropical flavors. The ice is shaved so thin you can blow it. It's powder-thin and one of the best of the Hawaiian treats," says Santana.

The more than 100 retail vendors will have crafts you can only find in Hawaii or Polynesia, such as authentic wood carvings, bone-carved necklaces and Koa bowls.

Pure Aloha has a loyal group that comes out each year to enjoy the festivities, but Santana encourages those who have never attended to check out the event.

"It's a unique event. You can feel the energy," he says. "It's different from any event in Las Vegas. If you go, you'll see that."

The festival has been a tradition for 11 years in Las Vegas. This marks the seventh annual fall event. It started at The Cannery, moved to the Silverton and has now found a home at the Rio, a location Santana says will only further benefit exposure and patronage.

"My dream was always to go to the Rio. There's no other venue as visible off the (Interstate) 15, and it's so easy to get to," he says.

Contact fashion reporter Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477.