Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Honolulu prepares for 13th annual 'SPAM Jam'

Businesses in the Waikiki area of Honolulu are busily preparing for one of Hawaii’s wackiest festivals: the 13th Annual Waikiki SPAM JAM® that will take place on Saturday, May 2.

Some 25,000 people are expected to crowd Kalakaua Avenue for the street festival that celebrates the famous canned luncheon meat, which is more popular with Hawaiians than with virtually any other group. According to The Associated Press, Hawaiians eat about six million cans of Spam each year, which works out to around five cans per person.

The event is presented by Outrigger Resorts, one of a portfolio of hotel, beachfront resort, condominium and vacation resort properties operated by Outrigger Enterprises Group. Outrigger Enterprises Group is one of the event's founding sponsors.

"We at Outrigger are dedicated to taking care of the communities in which we live and work," Bitsy Kelley, Waikiki SPAM JAM® co-founder and Outrigger Enterprises Group executive, said, noting that "the Waikiki SPAM JAM® benefits families who receive support from the Hawaii Foodbank."

Locals rocking their Spam regalia
There is no entrance fee to the festival or to enjoy the entertainment but visitors do pay for any food items they choose to sample. A portion of those fees will go to the food bank. Restaurants and other vendors pay a fee to participate, and the Hawaii Foodbank will also have tents on site and will be accepting donations.

Kalakaua Avenue, the main thoroughfare through Waikiki, will be closed to vehicle traffic for the event so pedestrians will have easy access to numerous food booths that will be set up along the festival’s path. Each booth will serve a selection of dishes with Spam as the featured ingredient in at least one of their food offerings.

This year, 16 outlets representing both local enterprises and national chains will be offering Spam-based dishes. Offerings range from the grand-prize winning recipe in the Great American SPAM® Championship, Reuben Spam Rollups from the Hula Grill Waikiki, to a Spam street taco offered by Gordon Biersch to the dish I found the most intriguing of all: Spam and fresh ahi katsu with wasabi curry and fresh mango salsa offered by Chai's Waikiki.

The festival will also include some of Hawaii’s best island groups and musicians performing from two entertainment stages.

The festival benefits the Hawaii Foodbank
The beneficiary of the Waikiki SPAM JAM® Festival, the Hawaii Foodbank is the only agency in the state that collects, warehouses, and distributes large quantities of both perishable and non-perishable food to 250 member agencies as well as food banks on Oahu, Hawaii’s Big Island, Maui, and Kauai.

Oahu has broad range of culinary offerings apart from the Waikiki SPAM JAM® Festival. For recommendations of other establishments to visit on the island, either before or after attending SPAM JAM®, please read Oahu for Foodies.

Why do they call it that?

There are several versions of how the product got its name but, according to Hormel’s website Spam.com, the significance of SPAM® as a brand name has long been a subject of speculation.

“One popular belief says it’s derived from the words 'spiced ham',” the website says. “Others suggest it’s an acronym for 'shoulders of pork and ham.' The real answer is known by only a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives,” though the web site also notes that the product was named by the brother of a Hormel executive in a contest held in 1937, the year the product was introduced. For his contribution, Ken Daigneau won a whopping $100 prize.

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Photos provided by Outrigger Hotels and Resorts
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