Fall Festival Brings French Flavor to Hawaii

Reed Travel Features

HONOLULU -- A group of Hawaii tourism and retail executives is organizing the first French Festival, to be held Oct. 4 to 12.

Aimed at attracting visitors during a traditional slow period, the festival will feature French products and arts at more than 30 Oahu locations. The ambitious festival, open to the public with free admission, will offer fashion shows, exhibitions, artisans, entertainment and hotel events.

In addition, Crossings '97: France/Hawaii, an international arts exhibition, will run in conjunction with the festival, Oct. 8 through Nov. 16. The works of 26 contemporary French artists will be featured at nine art galleries, museums and other locations.

In an announcement, Gov. Ben Cayetano, the event's honorary chairman, said the festival "marks a significant step in a partnership between the state and retail and travel industries to help attract visitors. State government alone cannot restore our economy. We need more private sector initiatives like this as models of what can be done to enhance the cultural, sports and other Hawaii events supported by the state."

Hawaii businesses are investing more than $2.1 million in the festival, and the retail industry is contributing more than $1.2 million in in-kind donations. The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism estimated the festival will draw at least an additional 4,000 visitors from Asia and 2,000 from the mainland. The department also estimated that total sales of $17 million will be generated and an additional $1 million in state taxes.

The more than 90 corporate and other sponsors include United Airlines, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, DBEDT and the city and county of Honolulu.

The French Festival organizers said its 13-member steering committee was inspired by the successful annual Comite Colbert Festival in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif.

There also is a precedent for Crossings '97: France/Hawaii. In 1989, works of 44 Hawaii artists were presented in Paris in Crossings '89: France/Hawaii. The event commemorated the bicentennial of the French Revolution and the centennial of the Hawaiian Pavilion at the Paris Universal Exposition.

Crossing '97 locations include the Contemporary Museum, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the University of Hawaii Art Gallery and the Bishop Museum.

The exhibition will move to Maui early next year.

The French Festival will include a benefit dinner and fireworks for the Honolulu Symphony on Oct. 11 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The price is $250 per person.

Confirmed events, all lasting nine days unless otherwise stated, include:

* Waikiki's Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center will be transformed into a French marketplace for Paris in Paradise, including entertainment by the Honolulu Symphony string quartet.

* Ala Moana Center's Makai Market area will be converted into a French cafe, with entertainment there and on its main stage.

* The Hilton Hawaiian Village will sport a French theme, with food carts, musicians, and street vendors, plus a French theme at its Bali by the Sea restaurant.

* The Halekulani's La Mer restaurant will hold three-hour workshops sponsored by the Le Cordon Bleu academy, Oct. 6 to 11.

* Hawaii Prince's Prince Court and Promenade Terrace restaurants will offer French menus.

Retail outlets participating will include Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior, Lacoste, Lancel, Van Cleef & Arpels and DFS Hawaii, the state's duty-free concessionaire.

Cartier, for example, will serve French champagne at its two outlets starting at noon.

At DFS's main Waikiki outlet, Hermes will host silk-scarf printing demonstrations and Christian Dior will offer free makeovers.

Chanel will have artist demonstrations using make up on canvas, and Lacoste will give gift certificates as prizes for a hole-in-one on a miniature golf course.

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