CELEBRATING CULTURES — POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Laie, HAWAII — Fifty years ago this past week, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) opened and began a new venture highlighting the peoples and cultures of Polynesia through entertainment, arts, education, and personal interaction.
It was October 14, 1963, when the PCC welcomed its first guests. Today, more than 37 million guests later, the PCC continues to thrive on Oahu’s North Shore as the only cultural tourist attraction of its kind in the world.
“We’re very proud to be celebrating our golden anniversary and grateful to all our employees and supporters, past and present, who have helped fulfill our quest over these first 50 years,” said Alfred Grace, PCC’s President and CEO. “The Polynesian Cultural Center is an incredible story. Young people from islands and countries throughout the Pacific Rim come to Laie to be educated, inspired and find their way in life, and they in turn end up touching the hearts and minds of visitors from around the world with their culture.”
Grace assumed the PCC’s top executive position earlier this year. A native of New Zealand and 1988 graduate of Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYUH), Grace is the first former “PCC Alumni” to lead the PCC, and only the second Polynesian. As a BYUH student, he worked as a cultural dancer and held several other jobs at PCC to help fund his education.
Situated on 42 lushly landscaped acres and intersected by a scenic lagoon, the PCC’s legacy is anchored by six island villages showcasing Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, and Aotearoa (New Zealand), along with displays honoring Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Marquesas. At each village, guests are immersed in the native culture through fun and engaging presentations, exhibits, and hands-on activities.
The PCC traces its roots back to the famed hukilau celebration in Laie that started in the late 1940s as a means to raise money for community needs while educating and entertaining visitors. In the first year following its opening, the PCC attracted 175,000 guests.
The PCC’s popularity steadily grew as word spread within the travel industry about the unique, festive cultural showcase being staged on the North Shore. PCC also benefited from being featured in TV shows and film in its early years, including Elvis Presley’s Paradise Hawaiian Style in 1966, a highlight of which was the “King of Rock n’ Roll” spending a week filming the movie on-site at PCC and mingling with employees.
Through the years, the PCC has also regularly hosted heads of state, kings, ambassadors and other international emissaries and dignitaries, particularly from the Asia-Pacific region.
As a non-profit organization, 100 percent of PCC’s revenue is used for daily operations and to support the education of its student-employees from BYUH. In its first 50 years, the PCC has provided financial assistance to more than 18,000 BYUH students from over 70 different countries. Currently, 750 BYUH students are employed at PCC.
Grace noted, “Even as we remember and celebrate all that the PCC has accomplished in its first 50 years, we are continually looking to the future and seeking new ways for our guests to experience and appreciate the people and cultures of Polynesia.”