Discover Hawaiian country music at Pacific Islands Festival

Valley residents are set to receive a taste of the island life while living in the desert.

The Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club plans its 24th annual Prince Kuhio Ho’olaule’a Pacific Islands Festival from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 13 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Henderson Events Plaza, 200 S. Water St. Admission is free.

The event is set to include music, dancing, vendors, a car show, a petting zoo and more, according to club president Tieri Pa’ahana Bissen.

“This year, we’ve themed our festival, and the theme is the Ninth Island of Hawaiian Cowboy Paniolo Roundup,” Pa’ahana Bissen said.

The Hawaiian cowboy culture began hundreds of years ago when Mexican herders were transported to the islands to teach Hawaiians how to raise cattle.

“In keeping with the theme, we’re pleased to have Melveen Leed coming on board,” Pa’ahana Bissen said. “She’s a very renowned singer that represents cowboy entertainment, and she’s been long noted for that.”

Born and raised in Hawaii, Leed has been singing professionally for 55 years.

“I can sing in 18 different languages, and I sing all different genres: jazz, pop, blues, rock ‘n’ roll,” Leed said. “I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of local faces and educating them on what Hawaiian country music is all about.”

Leed is set to perform at the festival from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 13 and from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 14.

“We consider Las Vegas the Ninth Island because a lot of people move and make their homes there,” Leed said. “They crave our culture, the music, the food, the ambience, so the festival is an opportunity for them to experience that again.”

About 10,000 people attended the two-day event last year. Pa’ahana Bissen said the club expects a 30 percent increase this year because of the extended hours on Sept. 13.

“The change in hours was a suggestion by the city of Henderson last year, and they suggested possibly beginning on Friday next year,” Pa’ahana Bissen said. “We’re strongly looking at that avenue if we have a good outcome on Saturday this year.”

In addition to the new hours, the club plans a new Hawaiian open market.

“Some of our churches, a hula school and other nonprofit organizations will be participating in the market as vendors,” Pa’ahana Bissen said. “We wanted to help support them, so whatever they earn from the market is theirs to keep.”

Founded in 1989, the club aims at preserving the Hawaiian culture and identity in the valley.

“In the past 25 years, we’ve given out about $75,000 worth of scholarships to high school students in the Clark County School District,” Pa’ahana Bissen said. “We also support adult education and other community-based organizations.”

Originally held at Lorenzi Park, 3343 W. Washington Ave., the festival moved to Henderson in 2006, according to Pa’ahana Bissen.

“When they closed the park to renovate the area, the city of Henderson invited us to come to Water Street,” Pa’ahana Bissen said. “We’ve been very pleased working with the city, and we don’t plan on moving back.”

Hawaii is considered a melting pot of customs and cultures, including Japanese, Korean, Polynesian and Portuguese, Pa’ahana Bissen said.

“People know about the Pidgin language, which is a combination of different words from all different culture backgrounds,” she said. “One sentence could have a collaboration of six or seven words from different ethnic backgrounds.”

The festival is designed to cater to the Asian-Pacific individuals living in the area and educate others on island traditions and values.

“Hawaiians have a big sense of humor,” Leed said. “We do what we want to do and say what we want to say, but it’s all with a good heart.”

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Contact Henderson View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at or 702-383-0403.

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