The 2021 Olechotel Belau Fair showed the significant improvements OBFs have had over the past 20 years since 2001. Held on Sunday at Kokusai, Ngatpang, the annual event aimed to showcase Palauan culture through various performing arts, crafts, food, and products, revealed significant growth and maturity over the years.
After 20 years and different administrations, the event organizer, formerly Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs, now Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism, and Development along with State governments and non-government partners have learned and improved from past lessons.
One of the most visible changes is the simple organization and layout of each site for the event. Despite challenges with each designated venue, the organizers have developed a general layout that is tweaked a bit depending on the year’s venue to provide the best visibility of performance and easier access to all States and vendors showcasing their products.
Another visible improvement is in the decorations and setup of each state booth. Materials, artistic decorations, local motifs are used to bring attention to each booth, and showcase products and food that is unique to each state although they also carry similar products especially food items for sale in most of the booths.
Traditional performing arts are still the main features of the OBFs as well as traditional food tasting and traditional games.
Most telling is the preparation that people do in anticipation of the next event such as planting certain crops months in advance, preparing and collecting supplies for products such as pandanus bags (tet), other handicrafts for the next OBF.
Participation of non-traditional vendors has grown as well in the Olchotel Belau Fairs over time. Booths selling trinkets from fans to bracelets and toys for kids are regular fares at each OBF. Many non-local residents participate by paying for booth space and setting up booths to sell their merchandise.
The twice-monthly held night markets have also contributed to the enhancement of OBF, as the smaller scale event mimics OBF provides many local vendors opportunities to sharpen their crafts and improve their productions and provide a venue for continuous showcasing of Palauan traditional and modern dances and other performing arts.
This year’s event, blessed with good weather, ensured another round of a successful Olchotel Belau Fair.