Dancers from across state and the Pacific Ocean gathered inside of the Golden Valley High School gym in Merced last weekend to celebrate the 41st annual Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete competition.
The colorful event returned to Merced after a two-year hiatus due to restrictions on gatherings that were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As one of the largest dance competitions of its kind held outside of the Pacific islands, participants were ready and eager to show how their skills had progressed since the last event. Dancers were both eager to make their way in front of the judges as well as meet with friends and competitors for the first time in awhile.
In addition to the dance competition, the annual Miss Maeva Merced competition was held, with Ashley Foltz named as this year’s winner.
Throughout the weekend, local residents were also invited to enjoy regular exhibitions that covered everything from drumming demonstrations to pro dance teams from Hawaii to coconut husk weaving demonstrations. Mercedians also had the opportunity to experience traditional island-style cuisine from a variety of food vendors on site, as well as grab gifts, clothing, and other keepsakes to remember the event.
The Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete — special to the city of Merced — is the longest existing, annually held, Tahitian dance and cultural festival outside of French Polynesia.