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Weekly Update for March 30, 2022

Article #1: Ken Peters

Submitted by: Sister Kristine Saunders, Archives

ken peters

We are lucky to have an employee as great as Ken Peters!

To be good at what you do, you have to like people. A skilled people-person is able to build bridges between groups and among people to cultivate relationships that build an environment of trust. As a Human Relations Business Partner, Ken Peters is a people-person who works hard to create an environment of trust and inclusiveness within Culinary Services, the division he oversees.

Kenneth Emosi Luapo Peters was born in Portland, Oregon while his mom and dad were there for his dad’s heart transplant surgery at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital (OHSU). The baby was named Kenneth and Emosi after his dad who was Fijian and Samoan. His name Luapo is Samoan which came from his mother’s family.  After his father’s surgery, they returned to Hawaii where his two sisters had stayed with their grandparents while their dad underwent heart surgery. Sadly, Ken’s father passed away after they returned to Laie. Since his dad and his dad’s twin brother both died of heart disease, Ken is doing what he can to stay healthy.

Ken attended elementary and middle school in Kahuku and played one season of football at Kahuku High School before moving to Oregon to live with his uncle. Education and sports were important in Ken’s life. The opportunity to excel academically and in sports was perhaps better in Oregon. “When you think about powerhouse high school sports, you don’t normally think about Oregon.” When Ken showed up to play J.V. football, “I was already bigger than half of the varsity team. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this kid’s huge.’” Because of his stature his coaches put him on the field to “take up space.” However, as time went on, he learned the schematics of the game and grew physically. At that point, “football became more competitive.”

At Southridge High School in Beaverton, Oregon, Ken adjusted to a very different environment. For one thing, “school was indoors” for another “I was the minority. Polynesians are the majority at Kahuku. At Southridge, as far as I knew, there were only seven Polynesians and two of them were my cousins. It was definitely interesting to see the shift in dynamics, coming from being the majority to being the minority. But, as soon as people hear you are from Hawaii, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh! What are you doing here?’ All I needed to say was, ‘I’m from Hawaii’ and they would say ‘Cool! Come sit with us!’” Ken moved back to Laie in 2009 and finished his last semester before graduating from Kahuku High & Intermediate School.

Ken’s parents met when they were students at BYU-Hawaii. As students, Ken’s dad was a canoe pusher and his mom was a dancer in the night show. Ken’s very first job was at the Polynesian Cultural Center as a keiki performer in the Luau, until he became more interested in sports. He later came back to the Center and worked in the warehouse before becoming a canoe pusher. Ken started at BYU-Hawaii, then he, “met my wife, took a break from school, got married, had some kids and worked for a bit before deciding that I needed to go back to school and complete my degree.” During his break from school, Ken worked as a Shift Leader and Youth Counselor at a local facility for chemically dependent youth. He facilitated and participated in treatment plans while supervising day-to-day activities. After about three years, Ken decided it was time for a change. It was time to go back to school and earn a degree. He was finally ready.

Ken’s position as Human Resources Business Partner is an extension of the Human Resources Department. He is humbled to be part of the Center’s history where miracles happen. “To see what the Center has gone through during the COVID shut-down, and then to see how we were able to recover, and not just how we recovered, but how quickly we were able to do so, considering federal and state restrictions, is nothing short of amazing.” Ken was able to work through the majority of the pandemic, because his role in HR was considered necessary to the Center and he even received a promotion during that time. “The Lord watches over this place. It’s amazing to see the things we were able to do, given the circumstances.”

“The people I work with are amazing. My position is unique because I report to two people, Tai Matalolo, HR Manager, and Greg Maples, VP of Culinary Services. I work with people who are fairly new to the Center, and also people who have been here for over 35 years, but all come to us with amazing backgrounds and stories to share. Being able to hear their stories makes my job really enjoyable.”

Being a good communicator is essential to working effectively with people. Ken always makes sure that he has established a relationship with whoever he’s working with. He’s hoping to change the perception people generally have of HR. He makes sure he regularly visits the different venues to get to know people on the front lines. “The employees don’t report to me, but at least they know I am there if they have any issues, questions or just need to talk. They know my email, phone number and where my office is. I don’t need to be there. I don’t have to be there, but I want to be there.”

Article #2: Code Name: Seiuli

Submitted by: Simi “Jimmy” Mapu, Guest Services

Johnson Ohana

Our distinguished guests enjoy a ride along the lagoon



Fa’afetai lava.

My heart is full of gratitude and appreciation for you

What a beautiful welcome by the dynamic duo, Na’auao and Heitiare, and their Hawai’i and Tahiti teams!  The sound of the conch, and beating of the drums along with that beautiful number was a great Polynesian way to welcome our special visitors.

Thank you to President La’ulu and John for the regal protocol, chiefly welcome, and the traditional sua that was presented to Seiuli and his family. The young lady that translated for him said that he kept repeating, “Wow! This is so beautiful.” over and over. Of course, Kap and the young men were great entertainers as always.

aotearoa dance

Our Maori staff provide a proper warrior’s greeting

In New Zealand, Whaea La and Matua Kim brought the mana and spirit to the visit. From the very first song, I personally felt the spirit and looked over to our special guests to see if they were feeling it too. I saw Seiuli lean over and ask his wife for something. She handed him a small piece of cloth and he wiped away tears that were in his eyes. His mother, Ata, wept openly, she was so moved. The harmonies of the voices and the passion that shown through in each motion on stage were things of beauty.

Rob and his canoe guides did a wonderful job with the canoe ride. Not only was the canoe decorated, but so was the landing where they boarded. Jazzy and Tia were so excited to ride the canoe and their excitement was palpable. It got everyone else excited too! As I walked alongside the lagoon as the canoe made its way to the Iosepa, I thought how funny it was to hear the booming laugh of this iconic voice that we’ve all become so accustomed to hearing in movie theaters or on our tvs at home, right here in the Center, live.

hawaii dance

Hawaii also honored our visitors

Naauao and Kaipo chanted the words of the oli kahea penned by our very own kumu Cy Bridges to welcome the party to Hawaii. While he hesitated at first, as soon as Jazzy and Tia got up in Iosepa, Seiuli climbed aboard as well, and got to learn about it from Kaipo, who is a wonderful storyteller — an honored title in our cultures. Mahalo to the students who taught the hula and shared samples of the freshly pounded poi.

fiji dance

Traditional Fijian greetings were also presented

The warrior escort from Fiji is always such a pleasant surprise for VIPs. It adds a feeling of importance and majesty to the entrance into Fiji. Vinaka to Ratu Kali and his team for a moving presentation on the camakau — inspiration for the canoe used in the now-famous animation starred in by our special guest.  It was now our turn to share the story of the ancient voyagers and our seafaring ancestors with the family of the man who famously portrayed it on big screens around the world. As the sound of “Isa lei” (sung at the special request of Seiuli’s mother) filled the air, the family, on their way to Tonga, couldn’t help but continually turn back to wave goodbye many times to those singing.

Walter, Moti and the Tongan village provided the perfect end to a VIP visit like this one. The beautiful ta’ovala wrapped around each member of the family was a beautiful touch. Not only did it put great big smiles on the faces of Lauren and the girls, but it added a genuine touch of tradition, making the experience all the more authentic. Of course, the drum presentation was a fun end to the many wonderful presentations made throughout the day even though Ma’afu changed his title. 😉

A special mahalo to those who worked so hard behind the scenes:

-Custodial and grounds crews who reworked schedules and rearranged assignment to make us show-ready even though the visit was much earlier than our gates normally open.

-Security for their assistance, as well as the First Aid crew who were also nearby in case they were needed.

-President Workman for arranging all of the tickets for the party, as well as the media through Virginia and Isaac. Looking forward to seeing the visuals they were able to capture soon.

-The Guest Services Gang that tried to keep everyone on schedule and happy. There was quite a bit of running around behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly by Ron, Rob, Lance and Vainui and their teams

And, of course, what would a high profile visit like this be without the leadership, coordination, and behind-the-scenes direction of Delsa and President Grace! Thank you for both for putting all of this together and orchestrating it so well to make it something Seiuli and his family will remember, and I’m sure, look back fondly on.

the rock

Many thanks to the Johnson Ohana for allowing us to share our beautiful Polynesian paradise

As The Rock was about to get in his car, he pulled out his phone and pointed it at the Tongan students who had lined the road where he was to exit, singing and dancing happily. He turned the camera to himself and started to say how awesome he felt throughout the day and how much he loved our people and his visit! He put his hand to his heart and called out “I love you guys!”, then got in his car and drove off slowly down the road lined with students saying their goodbyes.

It was a great day, made that way by all of you and the wonderful contributions and hard work you put into it.



Fa’afetai tele lava.

What an awesome place to work, with such awesome people.

Click here to see Dwayne Johnson’s Instagram post about his experience at the Polynesian Cultural Center!


Article #3: We will miss you, Wilton!

Submitted by: Delsa Moe, VP of Cultural Presentations

wilton kanahele

Wilton Kanahele

wilton vip

Wilton was the VIP guest in the Tongan Village show


Article #4: Job Listings at the Center

Submitted by: Eric Workman, VP of Marketing and Chief Financial Officer

graham & elliot

Chef Felix (left) and Chef Graham (right)

Learn from masters, build skills for your future, and create at one of the most prestigious attractions in Hawaii. Join our world class culinary team led by Chef Felix Tai and MasterChef Graham Elliot. Join our One Ohana, Sharing Aloha, click here to see openings.


Article #5: The 29th Annual World Fireknife Championship is coming in May!

Submitted by: Nina Jones, Marketing Department


The Polynesian Cultural Center is proud to announce the 29th Annual World Fireknife Championship and the High School Arts Festival on May 4th, 7th, 11th, and 12th, 2022. Competitors from around the world come to compete in this epic competition. However, only one leaves as the World Fireknife Championship. Click on this link to find out more, purchase tickets, or apply to be one of the competitors!


Article #6: 2022 Hale Aina Awards: LAST CHANCE to vote!

Submitted by: Jared Lambe, Digital Marketing Supervisor


vote hale aina awards

Only 1 day left to vote for your favorite restaurant!

You have until March 31st to vote for your favorite eatery on the island of Oahu. Of course, we hope that we can help POUNDERS RESTAURANT to be recognized for Chef Graham’s and his staff’s amazing efforts and incredible food – but no matter what and who you choose to recognize, we encourage you to be a part of this opportunity!


The Hale Aina Awards are Hawaii’s longest-running and most prestigious dining honors, started by HONOLULU Magazine in 1984 to honor the best restaurants in the Islands. The winners—awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze in more than 30 categories—are chosen each year for their commitment to operating at the highest levels of quality, and offering Hawaii’s most delicious and innovative dishes.

hale aina awards