Waikiki's Sunset program faces cloudy future

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WAIKIKI -- Thousands of tourists and residents, armed with Royal Hawaiian hot dogs, pizza or a plate of vegetables and fish, sprawl on blankets, beach chairs and straw mats to mingle and watch a film on a 30-foot movie screen on a Waikiki beach.

It's a scene that's been going on every Saturday and Sunday night for more than a year -- ever since the Waikiki City Council launched the Sunset on the Beach program following Sept. 11, 2001.

But it's a scene that soon may go unseen.

The program, which by all counts was a success from the start -- drawing about 7,000 on an average night and as many as 30,000 people in one night -- faces an uncertain future.

The Waikiki City Council, which has sponsored the program every weekend since it began, is facing budget cuts and can only foot the bill for one weekend per month through June.

The other weekends are being picked up by the private sector. Aston Hotels & Resorts Hawaii and Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, for example, have contributed $10,000 per weekend to continue the program.

Still, Sunset on the Beach "probably won't run every weekend," said Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association.

"I'm optimistic that it will continue on a fairly regular schedule," he said. "The city is working now to line up sponsors."

But much of the calendar still remains open, and Egged declined to speculate what would happen when the city's budget for the event is depleted in June. He and other officials are diligently trying to solve the problem before then.

For more details on Sunset on the Beach, call (808) 523-2489.

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