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Tahitian dance fest in Merced is a whirl of drums, color and food

Tahitian dance festival this weekend in Merced

The 38th annual Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 24-26, 2017, at Merced's Golden Valley High School, 2121 E. Childs Ave.
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The 38th annual Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 24-26, 2017, at Merced's Golden Valley High School, 2121 E. Childs Ave.

Hips will shake, drums will beat and grass skirts will sway this weekend in Merced at an annual celebration that draws crowds from out of the area.

The 38th annual Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete’s doors open at 5 p.m. Friday at Golden Valley High School, 2121 E. Childs Ave., and it continues through the weekend. Past events have drawn about 1,200 people from across the state, and even the country, to face off in several cultural dance and other competitions.

Organizer Becky Manandic has said her organization, Te Mau Ta’ata Anuanua, or “People of the Rainbow,” estimates the event pumps $250,000 into the local economy through food, gas, hotels and other sales to dancers and their families.

“We’re pretty much booked out at Merced Inn and Suites, and also Holiday Inn Express,” she said. “We have our people there. So, we hope that (people) come out and have a little fun with us.”

We have our people there. So, we hope that (people) come out and have a little fun with us.

Organizer Becky Manandic

Along with the dancing, vendors sell island-style food, jewelry and dress. One popular item is the “pareu,” a Tahitian wraparound worn by men or women. The food menus typically offer kalua pig, teriyaki chicken, salmon poke, Spam and Hawaiian shave ice.

During the festival, dancers in different categories 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 live beat of teams of drummers from around the state.

The Friday schedule offers an opening ceremony. It also features the Maeva Merced Pageant, where young men and women contend for the title to represent the festivities as royalty.

Past events have drawn about 1,200 people from across the state, and even the country, to face off in several cultural dance and other competitions.

The Saturday and Sunday events fill up much of each day with solo, team and other dance-offs. Saturday also features a competition among the crews that play drums for the dancers.

Sunday’s schedule also includes a traditional coconut husking demonstration.

Tickets at the door are $15 for ages 5 to 12 and $17 for 13 and older.

For more on the event, call 209-383-1435 or go to www.kikiraina.com.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

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