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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 31) - The vibrant dances, the masterful carving, the expressive arts and the mouth-watering food at the Guam-Micronesia Island Fair this weekend were but a preview.

The real show will happen in Palau at the end of July.

Many of the artists featured at the 17th annual fair, which wrapped up last night, have been invited to display their skills at the Festival of Pacific Arts, considered to be the "Olympics of the arts" in the Pacific.

FestPac, as the event is more commonly called, is held once every four years at a different island in the Pacific, and artists of every genre come from islands and nations all over the Pacific region to share their culture and their traditions.

Four years ago, the event was held in Noumea, New Caledonia. This year -- the ninth time it will be held -- will be in Palau in July.

Ben "Sinahi" San Agustin, a Chamorro carver and artist, pointed around at the colorful and varied booths at the fair yesterday, which was held at Skinner Plaza in HagÂtÒa.

"See what we're doing here today? This is what we're going to be doing for two weeks in Palau," he said. "In fact, we'll be doing it every other day, which will give us the opportunity to experience and feel the depths of the other islands and their indigenous performing, visual, culinary and cultural arts. ... We'll be trying to show the pride of our island and our indigenous culture and be the best ambassadors we can be."

"I wanted to showcase my art to my island here before I showcase it to the world in Palau," he said. "The response today was very positive and very motivating, in that there is a very deep consciousness to the plight of what we have lost, and seeing people try to touch base with who they are as a Chamorro people."

Julie "Jill" Benavente, a crafts artist and the owner of the cultural shop Guinihan in Mangilao, said she will attend her first FestPac this year.

"FestPac is about connecting with our outer brothers and sisters," she said. "When you're living here on island, you see all the different islanders here, but to get the true effect of their lifestyles and cultures, you have to go there."

Leonard Iriarte, the director of dance and chant group Guma' PÂlu Li'e', said there will be an unprecedented collaboration between his group and nonprofit group Pa'a Taotao Tano. He said the two will be performing together.

"What we and (Pa'a Taotao Tano) would like to see is more collaborative work between Chamorro artists and less rivalry as we all move forward to perpetuate our own genres of art," Iriarte said. "FestPac is the ideal place to lead by example in that way."

May 31, 2004

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