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2023 South Pacific Food Fest: Community event of the year?

Written by Tonga Victoria Fakalata

On Saturday October 6, 2023, Tokemoana Foods and Anthony’s Kitchen hosted East Palo Alto’s first night market event at Bloomhouse. The inaugural event invited over twenty vendors, and local community organizations to enjoy Pacific Islander cuisine and support local businesses. Families and young people traveled from as far as Sacramento to attend the Food Festival, and the night extended past the 9pm curfew time as people enjoyed the full experience of what is definitely touted as the community event of the year – but why? What about the South Pacific Food Festival made it so special? 

The success of the event could be attributed to a couple of factors – firstly, the number of people who attended the event was well over four hundred people. According to one food vendor, they had to close down their booth after selling the impressive 350 plates to festival goers. The wildly popular Kaipo Kitchen, Home of the Lion King Fries, also sold out of food before the night ended which was perhaps a disappointment for many given that many traveled from outside San Mateo County to try the Instagram-famous food! Local food favorite, Anthony’s Kitchen, also achieved the sold-out mark before the official end of the inaugural event. 

In addition, ‘Anamatangi Polynesian Voices was the only East Palo Alto community-based organization that supported the festival by raffling off prizes throughout the night. Winners received a variety of prizes, including an air fryer, a rice cooker and a recliner sofa! ‘Anamatangi Polynesian Voices staff also invited local community leaders including East Palo Alto Mayor, Honorable Lisa Gauthier to attend and enjoy the festivities. The most beautiful part of this experience was introducing members of the Pacific Islander community to East Palo Alto local leaders. 

With DJ Cilla on the music, and a large cultural backdrop for people to take pictures to commemorate the event, the South Pacific Food Fest revived a sense of community that many assumed was lost during the COVID-years. The success of the South Pacific Food Festival was driven by the high demand for the local community to have a place to enjoy good music, great food and even better company, and the hosts, vendors and attendees made that happen. 

The South Pacific Food Festival captured exactly what the community has been hungry for, and executed a near perfect event. From the ambience, to the diverse range of food vendors and small businesses to a strong presence of local leadership, the South Pacific Food Festival has set the tone for all future community events. 

Thank you, Tokemoana Foods and Anthony’s Kitchen for providing an experience for all to come and enjoy Pacific Islander cuisine, music and culture, and we look forward to next year’s festival!

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