Fifty years ago this week, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in Hawaii 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, in a written release. “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.
The PCC is in the process of completing $100 million in facility and experiential improvements over a five-year period, which is scheduled to conclude in fourth quarter 2014 with the grand opening of the newly expanded Pacific Marketplace.
The marketplace will double in size to accommodate more shops and offer a wider selection of goods and products from throughout Polynesia. Notably, the marketplace will be positioned closer to Kamehameha Highway and be more readily accessible, as people will be able to shop without having to actually enter PCC.
Other recent improvements of note for the enjoyment of guests include the a new Hawaii Village with a design and presentation inspired by the ahupuaa; the Hawaiian Journey, a new cinematic experience housed in a theater built to resemble a volcano and shown on one of the largest movie screens in the state; the renovation of Hale Aloha, home to the award-winning Alii Luau experience that features delicious cuisine, with the lively entertainment of the Hawaiian Islands and a Revitalized Samoa Village, which is historically one of PCC’s most popular venues due to its exciting presentations, including the tree climbing and coconut husking demonstrations.
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.