Move Aside, First Friday—Second Saturday is Taking Over Chinatown
Carving out its own identity against the bacchanal of First Friday, a family-friendly, interactive arts and crafts fair is taking part in the renaissance of Chinatown—just in time for a holiday shopping run.
Photos: Courtesy of Miki Lee
Last February marked the third coming of Second Saturday, the arts and culture happening in Chinatown. A spinoff from First Friday in 2006, Second Saturday tried to reset a scene that had devolved into “a drunken gala,” according to HONOLULU in 2012. Holding the street fair on a weekend in daylight, it was hoped, would restore the original arts and crafts community hosts to their rightful place in the sun—and attract families and shoppers.
A nice idea, but it didn’t really catch on. Until this year, when Miki Lee found herself with “a few leftover dollars from two nonprofits, Creative Arts Experience and the Honolulu Culture and Arts District.” The longtime community organizer decided to “leverage and build” Second Saturday with a new program, DiscoverArt. Volunteers would play a large role, along with the Louis Pohl Gallery and The ARTS at Marks Garage, mainstays of Chinatown and First Friday.
Hanafuda game players.
“We were sitting around in late 2015, a bunch of people who love the area and love the arts,” recalls Lee. “We bounced ideas off of each other. We decided on a weekend thing.” The first, in February, drew about 125 people for a four-hour period. “The number of artists interested in participating, the attention we got, the people coming—we thought: ‘My goodness, we’ve got something here!’”
Since then, the Second Saturday formula—arts, music, activities for kids and adults, no alcohol, plus a focused time frame from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.—has grown like a three-ring circus. “It’s a broad spectrum, something for everyone,” says Lee. “On The Spot Improv sets up in the Marks Garage theater and the audience throws them ideas. We’ve had musicians strolling up and down Bethel Street, going in and out of stores—the Pied Piper effect. From day one we’ve had the Hanafuda game, the plantation game, showing people how to play.” An ‘ukulele clinic has taken off: “People can borrow an ‘ukulele and join the circle, or take a lesson.”
With the holiday season upon us, Lee expects the crafts and arts to be a draw for shoppers. In fact, starting in October, she says, “We’re changing the footprint of the fair. Things were getting a little tight on the sidewalk, so we took out a permit on Pauahi Street heading out to Nu‘uanu.” They’re also considering extending the hours to 5 p.m.
“The two audiences we want to reach out to are the visitors and the artists,” Lee says. “Artists and craftspeople should check us out; we’re very cheap, only $10 for a table and $50 for a tent.” (For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Second Saturday/DiscoverArt is funded through December. “After this year, we will need to have a business plan that allows us to continue,” says Lee. But given its success, odds are the third time really will be the charm.
Check out facebook.com/discoverchinatown for more info.