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Hayward’s Hawaiian May Day Festival Is a Delicious Celebration of Polynesian Diaspora

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A bowl of Hawaiian shaved ice topped with purple, blue and yellow syrups.
The May Day festival will be a good chance to score some Hawaiian shave ice—and any number of other Pacific Island specialties.

This weekend, the streets of downtown Hayward will be lined with every imaginable variety of Hawaiian and Polynesian fare to fill up an empty plate—everything from shave ice and loco moco to tuna burritos. 

Food will be one of the main highlights of the 49th annual Hawaiian May Day Festival, the largest event of its kind in the Bay Area. And since Hayward has one of the largest Hawaiian populations in the nation, it’s no surprise that the roving festival will return to the city on Saturday, May 7, after a two-year hiatus. Organized by the Kumu Hula Association of Northern California—a non-profit that promotes Hawaiian culture in the Bay Area—the free festival celebrates Hawaiian traditions through music, dance, arts and, of course, food. 

“Food is what brings us together,” says Deanie Villiados, president of the Kuma Hula Association. “Sharing dinner is Hawaiian style. We invite everyone, no matter how much we have.”

To be sure, there will be plenty to share. Highlights will include sweets like haupia pie—made from thick coconut milk and chocolate, then stacked on a freshly baked pie crust and topped off with whipped cream. Savory dishes will run the gamut from Spam and eggs and garlic shrimp to my eternal favorite, Hawaiian barbecue.

“It’s a form of love. It’s a sense of family. It’s about being together and enjoying each other’s company like brothers and sisters. That’s true ohana,” Villiados says. 

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In true Bay Area spirit, this Hawaiian festival will also serve Filipino, Samoan, Fijian, Guamanian and even Mexican foods, showcasing the many Polynesian amd multiethnic diasporas who have migrated here over the decades to form pockets of community and solidarity through cuisine. The twelve featured vendors will include traditional Hawaiian food businesses, but also spots like Al Pastor Papi (Mexican street tacos), Chef T’s Kitchen (tuna burritos and miso salmon) and Mo’s Hut (Samoan-style corned beef chop suey).

To enhance the island flavors, musical performances from Polynesian vocalist Tenelle and R&B singer Reno Anoa’i, along with appearances from reggae bands THRIVE! and Native Elements, will accompany halau-style hulu dance lessons and bamboo carving.

So, whether you’re a longtime poke eater or a first-timer, pull up to get a taste of what the Pacific’s best has to offer.

The Hawaiian May Day Festival will take place on Saturday, May 7, 10 am–6 pm, at B St. and Main St. in Hayward.

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