More than a thousand people attended the festival where activities honored ‘ōhi‘a and the many people working to stop the spread of ROD and find effective treatments for it.
The annual ʻŌhiʻa Love Festival was held Sunday at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, an outreach center on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The annual community event is centered around Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), a fungal disease that has impacted hundreds of thousands of acres of native ‘ōhi‘a forests in Hawai‘i. More than a thousand people attended the festival where activities honored ‘ōhi‘a and the many people working to stop the spread of ROD and find effective treatments for it.
Corie Yanger, is one of the primary movers behind the festival. She does ROD community outreach and education for the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at UH Mānoa. She says the primary message of the festical is that ʻōhiʻa is important for many different reasons including personal, biological and culturally.
“‘Ōhi‘a plays an integral role in our ecosystems and culture,” she says. “We are all connected to ‘ōhi‘a in some way, may it be the water we drink, the ecosystems we protect, the lei we adorn, the mele we compose, the beauty we take in while hiking, hunting, or even driving over the saddle [road], or that beloved tree in your backyard or favorite forest. We wanted these connections and our love for ‘ōhi‘a to show.”
The festival began with an opening Kīpaepae ceremony. There were about 40 informational booths and the day’s schedule included presentations, demonstrations, Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death info, educational displays, crafts, games, photo booth, food, entertainment, face painting, a keiki scavenger hunt and an adult photo scavenger hunt.
Yanger says she’s impressed by how much knowledge about ROD has increased since the first year of the festival. Last year, she explains, most everyone knew something about ‘ōhi‘a but maybe not about the disease.
“This year a lot more people know about Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, so we’re trying to build on that knowledge and expand it further into the community,” she explains.
The festival was hosted by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the University of Hawai‘i.