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By Tauva Esera

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, May 3) - With more than $10,000 awarded in prizes, the second annual American Samoa World Fire Knife Competition, held Saturday night at the Veterans Stadium, was a huge success according to the chairman of the organizing committee, and daughter of the late Paramount Chief Letuli Misilagi Uluao, Ms. Malie Letuli.

The event, sponsored by the Flaming Sword of Samoa Association in conjunction with the Office of Tourism under the Department of Commerce (DOC) brought families of fans and supporters together to witness the art of fire knife dancing by several local and off-island young people.

It was an ideal night for parents and their children, who were inspired by not only the participants of the competition, but also with the talents of the several groups of young entertainers performing different island dances.

There were initially workshops held during the day at the Letuli residence in Fogagogo with fire knife dance classes conducted by Pulefano Galea'i, who is a reknowned "nifo oti" instructor.

The fire knife competition took place in the evening at around 6p.m., featuring some of the two Samoas' best fire knife dancers with spectacular performances that amazed the crowd, considering their young ages.

There were two categories of the competition - senior, for those sixteen and over and junior, for those fifteen years and younger.

There was also a special feature from the female fire knife dancer, Ms. Melanie Tapusoa from Upolu, who was previously the overall winner of her category when she participated in the World Fire Knife Competition held at the Polynesian International Cultural Center in Hawaii.

According to Ms. Letuli, next year they will add a new category, which will open the opportunity for young ladies who would like to take up the challenge of being a fire knife dancer.

It was evident that because of their experience, most of the prizes were earned and won by the competitors from Apia.

Following are the results of this year's competition:

Senior category and overall winner - Sakaio Pupuali'i of Apia who was awarded the cash money prize of $3,000 and the gold medal.

Claiming the second place was Hogan To'omalatai of Apia with the cash money prize of $2,000 and the silver medal.

Claiming the third prize of $1,000 and the bronze medal is Pago's Popea Lautala who moved from Apia a year ago.

Junior category winner - 15-year old Anelu Iakopo of Apia who was awarded the cash money prize of $1,500 and the gold medal.

Local fire dancer Don Malaki Lavata'i claimed the cash prize of $700 with a silver medal, while Popea Lautala from Apia claimed the cash prize of $300 with the bronze medal. Popea and the overall winner of the competition, Sakaio, are cousins.

There were also a lot of special prizes given out especially for those who participated.

Ms. Letuli expressed her heartfelt gratitude and appreciation on behalf of her mother, family, and those who were involved with organizing the event, for their support and time given to making the event a successful one.

It is the hope of the organizing committee that there will be a lot more involvement from the young people of American Samoa in the next fire dance competition next year, as well as the support of parents and the community.

May 12, 2004

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com

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