By Wayne Harada
For four decades, the annual Ukulele Festival at Kapiolani Park Bandstand has been free, a summertime favorite where youngsters and oldsters strum together to have fun together.
The audience, too.
To keep the event — set from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. July 18 —admission free, presenter Roy Sakuma and his Ukulele Festival Hawaii board, will present its first-ever fundraising gala, at 5:30 p.m. July 16 at the Hibiscus Room of the Ala Moana Hotel.
“This is the first time our 40-year history that we are holding a fundraising event to support the ukulele festival,” says Sakuma, festival president and proprietor with wife Kathy of the Roy Sakuma Ukulele Studios, where thousands of youngsters have learned to strum “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and move on to such tunes as “I’m Yours.”
This is a red flag — that the non-profit organization, like other arts organization in the community, needs kokua to stay afloat to maintain the free admission policy.
The fundraiser will showcase ukulele virtuosos such as Jake Shimabukuro and Herb “Ohta-san” Ohta, accompanied by Nando Suan, plus singer Natalie Ai Kamauu. Hawaii’s Aloha of Ambassador Danny Kaleikini, veteran entertainer who has hosted the ukulele festival for many years, will also perform.
The event features a buffet dinner as well as the music, and a silent auction that offers ukuleles, uke lessons, jewelry, dining and retail gift certificates and art work for browsing and bidding.
Admission: $65 per person; sponsor tables of 10 seats are available at $1,200, $3,000 and $5,000 levels.
Reservations and information: 486-0546, www.ukulelefestivalhawaii.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds will help offset the cost to put on the Ukulele Festival, the largest ukulele festival of its kind in the world.