LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla, June 3, 2009 – Greeting guests at Disney’s Polynesian Resort with a warm smile, 77-year-old Auntie Kau’i Brandt shares the Disney spirit and a taste of Hawaiian traditions. Recently profiled in the Orlando Sentinel, Brandt has been a part of the Polynesian Resort since its opening in 1971. As a cultural ambassador, she keeps her heritage alive by entertaining families with hula lessons, playing the ukulele, and creating fresh-flower leis and grass skirts.
Hailing from Pearl City, Hawaii, Brandt discovered her love of hula dancing as a child. Taking pride in her culture, Brandt started the luau at the world-renowned Waikiki Beach. Her talent caught the attention of Disney; she went on to establish the luaus at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The Hawaii native’s stint in Florida was supposed to be a three month assignment but Brandt fell in love with the area and stayed. Now in her 38th year at the Polynesian, Brandt has witnessed generations of vacationing families, some of whom seek her out on their visits.
Recognizing the importance of handing down customs to future generations, Brandt founded a non-profit called “Na’o piopio I Orlando” (translation is “Children of Orlando”) that gives free hula lessons to children. She also goes back to Hawaii at least once a year to keep connected to her culture.