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Best Cultural Festival Phoenix 2011 - Arizona Aloha Festival, Tempe Beach Park

The annual Arizona Aloha Festival goes beyond big, burly Samoans slapping their chests and sexy hula dancers swinging their hips — though we certainly don't mind either of those attractions. The event has grown in popularity and size since moving to Tempe in 2009 and now boasts a marketplace filled with coconut shell purses, hand-carved mother-of-pearl necklaces, and replicas of the carved wood and shark's tooth clubs used by ancient Polynesian tribes. We dug this year's focus on dance and education, which brought new treats, including a seminar on Maori bone carving and the return of master dance teacher Kehau Chrisman. Chrisman's hula group, Halau Hula Napuaokalei'ilima, paid homage to a Verde Valley resident who helped build a two-hulled canoe to prove that the ancient Hawaiians could navigate open waters without sophisticated instruments. We'll stick with club dancing and speedboats, thank you very much, but it was impressive nonetheless.
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