From The 9th Island of Hawaii to Las Vegas

Posted on — By Kalewalani Bancaco

My name is Kalewalani Bancaco and I am the student construction manager for Team Las Vegas. I moved here in 2008 to attend UNLV on the WUE scholarship. I took the road less traveled through college and will be graduating this May 2017. I will graduate with my Bachelors of Science in Entertainment Engineering and Design with a focus in Venue Design and Rigging. This is my second Solar Decathlon with UNLV and I couldn’t be more excited. When I’m not attending school, working or building houses, I like to enjoy the people and places that make Las Vegas the “9th Island.”

This is the Aloha spirit and there’s nothing else like it.

One place that I can always count on to make me feel right at home is the bi-annual Pure Aloha Festival. Every October and April when the weather is just right, the people of Las Vegas gather to enjoy Island food, shopping and entertainment. This event brings in vendors and artists all the way from Hawaii as well as from right here in Las Vegas. All the rides, games and treats are typical of a normal carnival. Then, whether it be the sweet Hawaiian music, captivating Hula dancing, billowing bbq smells or that infectious Polynesian hospitality in the air, you will experience the “9th Island”. This is the Aloha spirit and there’s nothing else like it. It’s the reason why since 2001, attendance has grown to upwards of 20,000 visitors of all ages, babies to their grandparents.

What makes Pure Aloha so special is that the event means just as much for our loyal patrons, as it does for the many families that make it happen. It gives families who have moved from Hawaii a way to pass on the culture and lifestyle to their children while they grow up in Las Vegas. I was welcomed to the Pure Aloha Ohana (Family) about 8 years ago. I have the pleasure of making sure the people of the 9th Island get their fix for authentic Hawaiian Shave Ice and perfect swirls of Dole Whip. From this event, the Pure Aloha Community Development Corporation non-profit organization was born and has done countless charitable events to support the local community. The generosity that this event shares and inspires is exactly what being from Hawaii is all about. I consider the people who run this event my family and am thankful that I have the opportunity to share the Aloha spirit with the people of Las Vegas.

There is an unmistakeable presence of “islanders” in the valley that on a daily basis. I find comfort in the simple things like seeing Hawaii stickers on the back of car and truck windows. It may also be the fact that no matter where I am, my favorite food is only a 15min drive away. It’s hard to be homesick since I seem to always have relatives to visit and eat oxtail soup with at the California Hotel. Then every time I stop at my local Walgreens, I’m tempted by the aisle long selection of my favorite crack seed snacks and Top ramen.