The many people who eat Huli-Huli chicken and beef at the Westfest International Festival probably aren't aware of the tremendous sacrifice required to make those grilled delicacies possible.
Sisilia Tuatonga, one of six siblings running the popular food booth, had to go all the way to Hawaii - by herself - and stay for three days, basking on The beach and enduring those 80-degree temperatures - just to get the special sauce used in making Huli-Huli dishes.It's a huge commitment, but Tuatonga has been willing to make the trek once a year so that visitors to the annual Westfest can enjoy a true Polynesian delight.
"It is expensive, but I have my connections," Tuatonga said of the journey. "We have to have this sauce."
Tuatonga brought back six cases - that's 24 gallons - of the teriyakilike sauce, which she will use for Hawaiian luaus and other festivals later in the year.
The Huli-Huli booth is one of 16 food stands, many of which offer fare unique to a particular culture, available at Westfest.
The city's annual celebration began Thursday and will continue through Saturday at Granger Park, 3500 S. 3600 West. The carnival rides, games, vendors' booths, entertainment and other activities get under way at noon and continue until 11:30 p.m. today and Saturday.
Saturday's highlights include the annual Westfest parade, set for a 10 a.m. start at the Valley Fair Mall. It will feature 72 entries, including 18 full-size floats, 17 dance groups and five bands. A $14,000 fireworks display will start about 10 p.m. Saturday.
The event is billed as a tribute to West Valley City's diversity and is intended to offer enjoyment for the entire family.
It takes Tuatonga's entire family to run the Huli-Huli booth. And if Thursday's early afternoon activity was any indication, they're also having a lot of fun. At any time you could find Tuatonga, her three sisters and two brothers working in the booth while as many as 15 of their children play and hang out behind the booth. They will be the beneficiaries of anything the family makes, Tuatonga said.
"The money goes to buy clothes for the nieces and nephews," she said. "It's really for the fun of it. We just live down the street so it's close and it's fun to have the whole family working together."
Robbie Walls enlisted the help of her mother and other family members in running her Arkansas' Finest Barbecue stand.
Walls, who was born in Arkansas but has lived in the Salt Lake Valley for 33 years, works from dawn until well after midnight to perfect her hickory beef, pork and chicken for the public. The meat slow cooks for nearly seven hours before Walls will sell it.
"Some people cook it for two or three hours and that's just not enough," she said. "There aren't very many places that do the good hickory barbecue around here. . . . I do this all summer long."
Walls came up with her own recipe for marinade and barbecue sauce, but the ingredients and cooking methods she uses are in keeping with the Southern style.
Pearl Deal also relies on traditional practices in making food for her Navajo tacos and fry bread booth. On a good day at Westfest, she might sell 500 tacos - at $4.50 each.
"This has been taught to me by my mother and I've done it since I was little," said Deal, whose family is in its sixth year of operating the Westfest booth. "We come here because my family loves it and it's fun to do."
Entrance into Westfest is free.