HONOLULU - Hawaii is known for its romantic endeavors. On any given day, kamaiana (Hawaiian for local residents) and tourists can walk along the beaches of Waikiki and run into couples standing barefoot in the sand, proclaiming their love for each other or exchanging vows.

Similar romance beckoned approximately 4,000 spectators, here, May 9. The crowd gathered at the Waikiki Shell to indulge in the harmonious melodies of the "Back to Romance" concert.

The sun slipped below the horizon, and the moon shone brightly in the sky just as the concert started, creating a romantic mood for those in attendance.

Part of a 10-day celebration that began May 2, the second Hawaii Romance Festival celebrated some of the most romantic music ever written, performed by guest star entertainers from across the islands and country.

The Back to Romance concert also brought a special treat to some men and women in the armed forces. Five couples, representing all branches of service, gathered on stage for a celebration of marriage.

Couples from the Army, Marines, and Navy renewed their wedding vows, and one couple each from the Air Force and Coast Guard engaged in the sacrament of marriage.

"Our military service men and women dedicate their lives to protecting our country, and since the Hawaii Romance Festival is taking place during May, which is Military Appreciation Month, we wanted to create a special event that paid tribute to romance in our armed services," said Allen Sviridoff, founding partner of the Hawaii Romance Festival.

Sgt. Tony Wood, Warrior Transition Unit, and wife, Joedi, showed the crowd what it meant to be "married strong." They renewed their vows after 20 years of marriage.

"I wanted to do something special for our twentieth anniversary," said Wood. "When this opportunity presented itself, I thought it would be the perfect way for us to celebrate."

Kahu Curtis Kekuna from Kawaihao Church performed the ceremony and recognized the Wood family for their service and dedication to one another, the military and the community.

The Woods have survived two deployments throughout their marriage. They are currently raising two children and four foster children.

"It's great to see the response from the community," said Wood. "People in the audience were thanking us for both our service to the country and setting an example of a lasting marriage."

"It was very surprising to be a part of this," said Joedi, who found out about the celebration just three days prior to the event. "Marriage is hard work, and to celebrate 20 years with thousands of ohana is overwhelming."

The couple also received one night's hotel accommodations in Waikiki, private car service to and from the concert, preferred seating during the concert, and a champagne breakfast in their room the following morning.

"We met other military couples, shared stories and celebrated all marriages, new and old," said Joedi. "It was a great night filled with an overwhelming amount of aloha."

The Matt Catingub Orchestra hosted the Hawaii Romance Festival of Hawaii, which composed original musical compositions of romantic classics just for the Back to Romance concert. One by one, performers took the stage to perform an array of musical ensembles that made heads sway back and forth and couples nestle closer together.

As legendary Motown icon Smokey Robinson took the stage, the mood of the crowd rose as cheering and applause could be heard from the outside the amphitheater. Spectators created their own choir, singing along with Smokey as he serenaded those in attendance with popular romantic songs. Other performers included popular Hawaiian entertainers: Cecilio & Kapono, Robert Cazimero, Eric Gilliom, Hapa and Kaukahi.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaiian Electric Company and Pleasant Holidays sponsored the event. Vendors who cater to the military sponsored 1,000 tickets for military personnel.
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Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16