Although not as well-known as Disney Legend Richard over at the Grand Floridian, Disney’s Polynesian Resort also has a Walt Disney Living Legend working there: cast member Kau’i Brandt, better known as Auntie Kau’i to the guests.
At age 84, Auntie Kau’i has been with Disney’s Polynesian Resort almost since it opened.
She moved from the Hawaiian island of Oahu in 1971 to first open the Polynesian show at Disneyland in California, and then moved to Florida to open a similar show at Walt Disney World. She was the master of ceremonies for both shows, and now serves as a cultural representative at the Polynesian Resort.
Guests can find Auntie Kau’i in the first-floor lobby of the Great Ceremonial House of the Polynesian five days a week making leis with fresh flowers and pretty ribbons at her table in the corner of the children’s area. She is quick with a friendly smile and delights in showing guests how leis are made.
She creates her leis from real flowers for guests celebrating their honeymoon, anniversaries, or family celebrations. (All resort guests receive a pretty, free silk flower lei when they check-in, and also get one at the Spirit of Aloha show.)
These special leis can be custom-ordered in specific colors and flowers in the adjacent gift shop for $10 – $20 apiece. Auntie Kau’i said she creates about 20 lei necklaces, bracelets, and headbands for guests each day. How cute would that be if you were getting married at the Polynesian and everyone wore one of these?!
Children are invited to make lei necklaces and bracelets out of pasta and candy. Modern tradition holds that carnation lei symbolize love, but a fresh flower lei is a beautiful gift that needs no reason to give and enjoy.
Auntie Kau’i also teaches guests how to dance the hula. The lessons are complimentary and last about 15 minutes. Women and girls are invited to don grass skirts and are given instruments to play to accompany the ukulele music. During the lessons, Auntie Kau’i and another cast member take turns demonstrating the graceful movements while the guests mimic them. Then, the guests put it all together for their finale. So much fun!
Auntie Kau’i has been dancing the hula since she was 6 years old. On Saturday mornings, she also teaches free dance lessons for two hours at the Polynesian Resort.
Stop by and say hi to her!
You can read more about her interesting life’s story here: Growing Up Hawaiian.
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by Elly Collins & Caroline Collins
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