SPIFFS Says Aloha from St. Pete

Audrey Reedy, Michael Chapman and Thomas Tomilson of Gulfport, and Terry Ditzler get in spirit of island night and show off some of the better Hawaiian shirts at the event. Reedy and Ditzler were visiting from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

St. Petersburg felt a lot like Hawaii Saturday, February 17 as the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society (SPIFFS) hosted a luau along with Hawaiian Hula dancers as entertainment.

“This is our yearly benefit party,” said Lotta Baumann, executive director of SPIFFS before the event, which took place on Country Club road right across from Admiral Farragut Academy on Park Street. The location faces Treasure Island.

After a Hawaiian and Polynesian buffet that included roasted pork, fried rice, sweet potatoes and a Hawaiian watermelon salad, the group Echo of the South Pacific from Clearwater performed traditional Polynesian dances along with live drums and other traditional percussion. The group’s D.J. taught the crowd some Hawaiian phrases including “i kekahi manawa hou aʻe” or “One more time.” And encouraged them to yell them out during the performance.

“We love bringing all the cultures together,” said Marion Serna, president of the Ukrainian American Association within SPIFFS.

“We learn so much,” said SPIFFS member Olya Czerkas. “SPIFFS does a great job of doing that.”

Event organizer and executive director Lotta Baumann just before the start of the SPIFFS fundraiser benefit on Park Street across from Admiral Farragut Academy. “They (Farragut) were very gracious to let us use this location for the event,” said Baumann who is originally from Sweden.

“We also go into the schools and communities and if they need a translator we help with that,” said Baumann. “We also do an art contest to educate students about different cultures.”

Gulfport residents Michael Chapman and Thomas Tomilson recently learned of SPIFFS and enjoyed the event.

“This is our first event and we will be joining,” said Tomilson. “We came to the event after we saw it in the Gabber.”

SPIFFS, which was founded in 1975, presents multi-cultural events throughout the year, culminating with a four-day Folk Fair in downtown St. Petersburg at the end of October​.

Marliese Van Wyck of Echo of the South Pacific dance group does a traditional Polynesian dance for the crowd after dinner at the SPIFFS luau.

Olya Czerkas, Marion Serna, Dovey Stacy show off their leis and even did a little hula dancing for The Gabber before the SPIFFS Hawaiian luau.



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