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Miss Tahiti 2017 and Mayor of Châteauroux attend French event

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Turouru Temorere Miss Tahiti 2017 and Gil Averous, mayor of Chateauroux attend the Evening in French Polynesia luau, Nov. 4.

Last year, the mayor of Châteauroux, FranceGil Avérous, came to Fresno for the first Sister City student to student exchange program. This year the mayor, along with Turouru Temorere Miss Tahiti 2017, attended the Evening in French Polynesia Luau, Nov. 4. This event was hosted by the Alliance Française of Fresno, which seeks to offer exciting quality events centered around the theme of French culture.

This event was the Alliance Française’s first annual luau in Fresno. They decided to host a luau to celebrate the culture of the French Polynesian islands. They partnered with Central High School’s French Club and The Polynesian Club of Fresno, a world-renowned dance troupe.

Scott Donaghe, president of the Alliance Française of Fresno and French Club teacher, wanted to do something a little different this year for their French centered event, so he decided to honor Tahiti, along with its 118 islands, and the French Polynesian islands. Donaghe lived in France for about four months for a summer semester program through Fresno State. He has taught French at Central High School for around 19 years.

“When I first took over the French program, the variety of students that were in French was not that large,” Donaghe said. “Since I’ve taken over there’s a lot more variety of nationalities taking French. The French program has diversified, and that is why I wanted to connect the French islands to this event.”

The Alliance Française welcomed Gil Avérous, mayor of Fresno’s Sister City Châteauroux, to the luau. Last year, the mayor attended the official signing ceremony of the two sister cities in Fresno. Since the alliance was made, Châteauroux’s goal is to share student exchanges between the two cities. Three students from Châteauroux are currently attending one of the schools in Fresno through this program.

The people of Châteauroux are excited for the opportunity to have a sister city in the U.S., according to Avérous. At one point, 10,000 Americans lived in Châteauroux, so the citizens are enthusiastic to connect with the United States. Being in Fresno a second time, the mayor was excited to check out the community and the agriculture. Toney Henry, vice president of the Alliance Française of Fresno, translated.

“I’m very happy to be here and excited to go out into the community and meet some of the students,” Avérous said. “I’m excited about the agricultural history, like the winemaking process because being from France, we are the kings of making wine. It’s good to be exposed to so many different aspects of agriculture in California since it’s one of their major industries.”

Kamryn Schultz | The Feather Online

The dancers from The Polynesian Club of Fresno have performed in Tahiti, Hawaii, and New Zealand.

Not only was the mayor of Châteauroux in attendance, but Turouru Temorere, Miss Tahiti 2017, arrived to embrace the familiar culture. The 21-year-old was crowned in June, and the experience has already changed her life.

At first, she wasn’t going to present herself as a candidate for Miss Tahiti, but one of her friends became Miss Tahiti 2015, and because of her counsel she decided to run. But with the perks of winning came some downsides.

Temorere finds it difficult to connect with friends because she travels, and she must always dress well and be ready to present at any moment, which challenged her lifestyle.

Nonetheless, Temorere is thrilled to be Miss Tahiti 2017 as it has given her the opportunity to promote her country. She is now in the running to become Miss France 2018, which coincidentally takes place in Châteauroux, France. Toney Henry translated for her.

“It’s exciting to be Miss Tahiti, but it’s also exciting to get the opportunity to become Miss France,” Temorere said. “I also get the opportunity to represent where I come from, which is very special. I’m very happy to be at this luau because it makes me feel at home being able to see the dancers that come from my hometown.”

The luau started with the Polynesian Club of Fresno performing for the audience. Kolei Fiefononga Kuma started the group in 1972 for his son’s first birthday. Kuma gathered dancers and musicians to put together entertainment. Since then the group has performed and competed all over the world, in places such as Tahiti, Hawaii, and the Polynesian Islands.

Martha Kuma is Kolei’s second child, and one of the leaders of the group. She admires the fact that she lives in a place where people are open to multicultural experiences. Kuma believes it is important that they go back to the islands to keep the dances and stories culturally correct.

“My favorite part about being in this club is that it’s an extended family. People come to dance and they think they’re just coming for hula dances, but eventually, they turn into family. We see dancers that have started from the 70s still with our group. We have a very large extended family and it’s that spirit of aloha or ohana that is the most exciting to me.”

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

The group competes all over the world, and some dancers perform as soloists.

Kuma introduced the Polynesian Club of Fresno to the audience, and the entertainment began. Some performances included dancers dressed in exotic clothing while swaying to relaxing music from their culture. Others performed upbeat numbers, such as a fire dancer playing with fire to wow the audience. The dances originated from many of the French Polynesian islands, such as Tahiti, Hawaii, and even some from New Zealand. 

Rica Sotto, a member of the club since 2003, is Filipino and relates very much to the culture and atmosphere of the group. She competes as a soloist as well as in a group and loves learning more about the culture.

“I went to Central, and one time I saw the girls dancing in this club, so I wanted to be apart of it,” Sotto said. “I love every type of dancing but I love Tahitian the most because it’s fast. I love being apart of a family; we are all really close.”

After the performance, guests were invited to eat a traditional French Polynesian dinner, with Hawaiian bread, rice, and meat cut from an entire pig. During this time, Temorere talked about her experience becoming Miss Tahiti 2017.

“I originally wasn’t going to present myself as a candidate, but my friend was Miss Tahiti 2015 and it was because of her counsel I decided to run,” Temorere said. “At first, my father didn’t support my decision, but I presented myself as a candidate behind my fathers back. Since then I’ve been very proud to represent Tahiti and it’s been a great experience.”

The event closed with Donaghe thanking everyone for their support and hoping to make the event even bigger next year. The emcees of the night were Alena Lee of ABC30 Action News and Toney Henry, vice president of the Alliance Française.

To find out more about the Sister City program, read Fresno gains new sister city in France. For more articles, read PROMO: Superintendent Brown hosts campus Town Hall, Nov. 6.

Slideshow below includes images of the Evening in French Polynesia luau held at Central High.

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This writer can be reached via Twitter @schultz_kamryn and via email: Kamryn Schultz.

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