By Jim Ogsbury
When, in the summer of 2015 at the WGA Annual Meeting at Lake Tahoe, Governor Eddie Calvo of Guam suggested that I visit his beloved home during the 2016 Festival of Pacific Arts (FestPac), I was sold. I had previously committed to visit the island “Where America’s Day Begins,” so it made sense to accept the Governor’s invitation.
My expectations about FestPac, however, were limited. I assumed the event would be a modest Pacific island arts exhibition: some paintings on display, wall hangings for sale, no big deal.
Oh my heavens. What an unbelievably big deal it was.
After crossing the international dateline and arriving at the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (following an 18-hour flight from Denver), I was wiped out. I rallied, though, when the Governor’s chief of protocol met me at my arrival gate late on a Saturday night and ushered me to a car. When the driver informed me he would pick me up in a few hours to deliver me to a beach for the traditional canoe welcome and ecumenical service, it dawned on me that this was no conventional art show.
Known as the “Olympics of Pacific Arts,” the Festival of Pacific Arts is hosted every four years by a different country in the Pacific. For the 2016 edition, Guam hosted delegations from 27 island nations. Yes, the two-week extravaganza featured visual arts, but it also focused on the arts of astronomical navigation, cooking, ship-building, floral arrangement, story-telling, music, dance, body ornamentation, healing, weaving, blacksmithing, carving, theater, oratory, language, cinema, fashion and much, much more.
In short, FestPac is about the art of life. And the denizens of the Pacific have that particular art down to a science.
The organization of the festival represented a sophisticated symphony of logistics. From the opening ceremony at Paseo Stadium (where island delegations sang, danced and presented offerings to Governor Calvo), through the scores of demonstrations, exhibitions and performances, the Guamanian hosts demonstrated extraordinary hospitality and attentiveness to detail.
Governor Calvo, the host-in-chief, could not have been more gracious or considerate. We spent a good deal of time talking about the Western Governors’ Association and current policy issues. Moreover, the Governor educated me about the history, culture, lifestyle, economy, environment and ethos of the Pacific. His pride in Guam could not be more transparent and my gratitude for his warm solicitude could not be deeper.
In addition to our love of country and appreciation for Pacific traditions, Governor Calvo and I have something else in common: we are both married to beautiful women named Christine. We are planning to meet in Hawaii with our respective Christines for FestPac 2020. Perhaps we will see you there as well. Be advised that you can expect more than a few easels and paintings. Rather, you can expect the experience of a lifetime.