Tonga Heilala Festival

Tonga Heilala Festival

Week of July 4
Located in the Pacific Ocean some 1,250 miles north of New Zealand, the island nation of Tonga consists of about 150 islands, 36 of which are inhabited. With a population of about 120,000, Tonga is ruled by a royal family that goes back to 1831.
The Heilala Festival celebrates the flowering of the heilala, Tonga's national flower. But for many years, the Heilala Festival also coincided with the birthday celebrations for Tonga's King George Tupou IV. Since the king's death in 2006, the festival now includes the birthday of Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka.
The weeklong Heilala Festival features a host of events, including a Miss Heilala Pageant, parades of floats, processions, and music festivals. The streets of Tongatapu are covered with colorful flowered arches, while decorative lights illuminate the Royal Tomb at Mala'ekula and the Royal Palace. Among the live entertainment is the dance group Lakalaka from Vavau, which features some 1,000 dancers. In addition to food, drinks, and live music, there are also traditional crafts on display. A night-time torch-lighting ceremony, named Tupakapakanava, involves a group of participants carrying flaming torches of dry reeds along the northern coastline of Tongatapu. The evenings often end with gatherings around beach bonfires.
CONTACTS:
General Consulate of Tonga in San Francisco
360 Post St., Ste. 604
San Francisco, CA 94108
415-781-0365