Polynesian culture celebrated at PolyFest

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  • PolyCentral students take to the stage.

  • Polynesian dancers perform for PolyFest.

  • Performers wore traditional Polynesian dress.

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Elliott Watkins, Staff Reporter

The SURC ballroom was lit up by green and yellow lights around the room, while those overhead dimmed. As the audience slowly flooded in to find their seats, they were greeted with Polynesian music. The host entered the stage and the crowd went silent as PolyFest began.

PolyCentral is a community of Polynesian students at CWU, and for the first time since 2019, they hosted PolyFest on May 21. The event is held to celebrate Polynesian culture, as well as grow the community of PolyCentral students.

Business and entrepreneurship major and PolyCentral President LeiBen Tivoli Fesili said he expected the event to be nothing but fun and enlightening for those that are not as familiar with Polynesian culture at CWU.

“The reason why this is important is because we want to draw attention to a university like Central Washington that our Polynesians on the west side are struggling to know, here is a college for you,” Tivoli Fesili said. “You do have a voice if you come here.” 

The festivities included many traditional dances originating from indigenous peoples of Maori, Fijian, Tahitian, Hawaiian, Tongan and Samoan descent. According to Tivoli Fesili, dances and cultural attire are both extremely significant aspects of the Polynesian culture. 

“We are the Polynesian people,” Tivoli Fesili said. “Expect that there’s going to be games and things like us boys dancing, having funny dances, incorporating modern day music and stuff. It’s our culture, and cultures continue to change nowadays.” 

For audience members, like business administration major Sam Robbins, the overall experience of PolyFest was eye-opening, especially because of the presentation of diversity throughout the Polynesian cultures.

“It gave me a bigger insight on how many different cultures of Polynesia there are … I went in at first knowing Hawaii and Samoa, but I didn’t know about the other ones,” Robbins said. “This gave me better respect for them and their cultures, dances and the stuff that they do.”

According to safety and health management major and PolyCentral social media representative Lewa Emmsley, dances were to be expected.

“PolyFest is all about having fun and just enjoying being able to see all of the different cultures,” Emmsley said. “I will mostly be dancing.”

There were dance performances throughout the evening by indigenous peoples of Hawaiian, Tongan and Samoan descent.

Between performances, there were games that encouraged audience participation on stage. These games included audience members giving their best “Pukana” face, attempting to move their hips prompted by Polynesian dance moves, a Polynesian take on Simon Says and couple’s charades.

When two couples from the audience got on stage to play couple’s charades, the audience watched as one of the boyfriends got down on one knee. The audience gasped along with the girlfriend as he proposed.

When she said yes, the crowd gave a standing ovation to congratulate the newly engaged couple. 

The night concluded with a tribute to all of the loved ones of PolyCentral members that have passed away. The tribute consisted of a slide show presentation of all of their “fallen angels,” according to Tivoli Fesili.