MERCED — If you listen closely, you just might be able hear the drums pulsing and skirts swaying at Golden Valley High School, where the 35th annual Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete kicked off Friday and continues through the weekend.
The Maeva Merced Pageant and the ahuroa competition began Friday at the school at 2121 E. Childs Ave. Three winners from the pageant will go on to represent the Tahiti Fete at other gatherings, and the ahuroa contest pits solo dancers against one another to see who is the best.
About 300 dancers will take part in the competitions through the weekend. Island-style food, as well as Polynesian arts and crafts, will be offered during the event. The festivities are scheduled to continue from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
The event draws up to 1,200 people from all over the nation. Its regarded as the oldest and biggest Tahitian festival outside the island itself, according to organizers.
During the festival, dancers from age 4 to older than 45 wear colorful skirts and decorated headdresses of feathers, flowers, straw and seashells. All of the performances are done to the beat of live drummers.
The mastermind behind the three-day festival is Becky Manandic. She said her organization, Te Mau Taata Anuanua, or People of the Rainbow, estimates the fete pumps $250,000 into the local economy through food, gas, hotels and other sales to dancers and their families.
She said she wants the event to be a celebration as well as a way to support the local community.
Merced is our town, and we have to give back, Manandic said.
Daily tickets at the door are $17 for adults; ; $15 for children 5 to 12 years old.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or email@example.com.