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The Polynesian Cultural Center (also known as the PCC), owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is located in Laie, Hawaii and is one of the most visited attraction in Hawaii. The PCC was opened and dedicated in 1963 and not long after became an enormous success. Today, the center welcomes more than one million visitors per year. It has long been Hawaii's top paid-admission visitor attraction.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is unique among the LDS Church’s sites to visit because it is one of the few that is not a historic site. It is also one of the few sites owned by the Church that charges an admission fee. There is some information about the history of the Church among the Polynesian people, but most of the Center is dedicated to shows, music, food, and entertainment that celebrate the different cultures of Polynesia.
At the Polynesian Cultural Center there are many fun things to do and plenty of opportunities to learn about about the cultures of Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Marquesas, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The exhibits and activities about Rapa Nui are the newest part of the Polynesian Cultural Center, and additions that cover other Polynesian Islands are being added. The PCC is staffed for the most part by students from Brigham Young University-Hawaii, many of whom are are from the various islands featured in the PCC. These students contribute greatly to the teaching and understanding of their cultures.
The Polynesian Cultural Center, BYU-Hawaii, and the LDS Laie Hawaii Temple all work together to serve and unite the community and those who visit it. Elder Jeffery R. Holland, who served on the PCC board of directors made the following statement while at BYU-Hawaii:
- ...Wherever we come from, however we speak, whatever our history, whatever our heritage, whatever our language, whatever our education, our hopes and our dreams, we are going to come together, and it is going to be better in a place like Laie... I know [this statement] seems extravagant in a Church of [then] 11.5 million... [but] more and more..., not less and less in this big wide Church that is going everywhere... Laie is going to be a symbol of what we are trying to do.... (emphasis added)
The mission statement of the Polynesian Cultural Center, as found on the Center's official website www.polynesia.com is as follows:
- The Polynesian Cultural Center is a unique treasure created to share with the world the cultures, diversity and spirit of the nations of Polynesia. In accomplishing this we will:
- Preserve and portray the cultures, arts and crafts of Polynesia.
- Contribute to the educational development and growth of all people at Brigham Young University-Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center.
- Demonstrate and radiate a spirit of love and service which will contribute to the betterment, uplifting and blessing of all who visit this special place.
Polynesian Cultural Center Sections
The Polynesian Cultural Center is divided into different sections referred to as islands. In each area you can learn about one of the cultures featured in the Center.
Hawaii There are five demonstrations given about the Hawaiian culture each day. Visitors can learn about Hula, the traditional foods, how a lei is made and other Hawaiian crafts. Visitors can also play Ulu Maika (a Hawaiian game like bowling), and Konane (Hawaiian Checkers). There are also exhibits, and performances that teach more about the Hawaiian Culture.
Samoa Demonstrations are given six times a day featuring how the Samoans make fire, climb coconut trees, and cook. There is an exhibit of traditional Samoan homes, as well as more information about the history and traditions of the Samoan people.
Aotearoa (New Zealand) New Zealands native people the Maori developed a culture very different from the other Polynesian cultures. Much of this stems from the fact that New Zealand experiences all four seasons. There are five demonstrations given a day that “explains the symbolic significance of their beautiful meeting house, unique carvings, facial tattoos, the ancient origins and meanings of sticking out their tongues and twirling poi balls.” In this part of the PCC you can also see the Haka dance, play a Maori stick game called tititorea, and get temporary tattoos that look like the traditional Maori tattoos. You can also see a traditional forty-foot war canoe, watch tower and carver’s hut.
Fiji There are demonstrations that explain the war drum, coconut in Fijian cooking and other parts of the culture. You can see a replica of a bure kalau, a Fijian temple, and other significant building of the Fiji culture.
Tahiti Demonstrations of traditional dances and music are given daily. You can learn how a flower or shell Tahitian lei is made, sample traditional coconut bread, take a walk through a garden with native plants of Tahiti and even go fishing. You can also explore a replica of a typical Tahiti village.
Tonga Tonga is one of the few Polynesian islands that is still ruled over by a King who is a descendant of the prominent chief. At demonstrations in the PCC you can hear the ta nafa or drum presentation, learn one of the traditional dances, play lafo, and even throw a tolo spear. You can visit a replica of one of the Queen’s summer palaces, a typical family home and other buildings.
Marquesas You can see dances like the Pig Hunt Dance, watch demonstrations of traditional crafts, try food, and a replica of the High Chief’s compound. You can also see exhibits that demonstrate the artwork of the Marquesas people.
Rapa Nui (Easter Island) This exhibit was just recently added in 2003 as a part of the 40th anniversary of the Polynesian Cultural Center. In this part of the PCC you can see replicas of the moai, the large carved stones that have made Easter Island so famous. Visitors can also see a canoe house, a gardening pit (a way of growing staple foods that were invented for places where there was little soil), and other buildings.
LDS Church Plans Renovations
The 45-year-old Laie Inn closed for good November 1, 2009, leaving Hawaii's largest paid attraction, the Polynesian Cultural Center, without adjacent tourist lodging. The Church will build a new hotel in its place. The new facility will have 228 rooms; the old Laie Inn had only 48. The inn never functioned as an anchor hotel for the PCC, where the sprawling parking lot fills nightly with tour buses and rental cars carrying people who made the trip from hotels in Honolulu. Hawaii Reserves, Inc., the property management arm for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has not yet released a detailed site plan or information about where the current businesses will go. Richard E. Marriott lends a unique perspective in the project as chairman of the board of Host Hotels and Resorts and chairman of the PCC. "I'm assuming it will be a Marriott brand with an exterior that fits in with the Hawaiian theme," he said.
Marriott and Vierra said the new hotel, important as a source of jobs to benefit the local economy, will likely be a laboratory of sorts for BYU-Hawaii students. "I would certainly like to see a hospitality training and employment program associated with the hotel. This will be up to BYU-H and the church," Marriott said.
The step-up in scale is also helpful to the 880-acre Turtle Bay resort. "We would like to see the project with Marriott go forward," said Keoki Wallace, Turtle Bay Resort's public relations manager. Demolition of the Laie Inn is expected to begin before the end of the year with groundbreaking for the new hotel anticipated in about a year.