Hello Kitty in Sacramento for a three-day festival of cute

Upbeat characters abound in the Hello Kitty Super Cute Friendship Festival.
Upbeat characters abound in the Hello Kitty Super Cute Friendship Festival. VEE Corp.

Pass through the doors this weekend at Sleep Train Arena and be prepared for an avalanche of adorbs.

The home of the Sacramento Kings (at least for now) will transform into an oasis of happiness, no talk of losing streaks or missed jump shots. Instead, there will be furry costumes and perky dance routines, a mass gathering of kids and the young at heart who share a devotion to an icon of all that’s cute.

Hello Kitty is coming to town, and the weekend will be a Sanrio-sponsored sugar rush of fun and photo ops. We’re talking about the Hello Kitty Super Cute Friendship Festival, which will be held over five separate sessions from Friday through Sunday.

Unlike “Sesame Street Live” and other events geared for kids, the “Hello Kitty Super Cute Friendship Festival” is more like a comic con with multiple attractions rather than a sit-down show. This Hello Kitty festival includes two performance stages, booths for temporary Hello Kitty-themed tattoos and a fashion show. There’s also ample opportunity to get a picture with Keroppi, Chococat, Hello Kitty herself and other characters from Sanrio, the Japanese company that created Hello Kitty.

“It’s an immersive experience with the whole floor covered in Hello Kitty-ness,” said Piper, a singularly named spokesperson for the festival. “All around there will be interactive exhibits. You can smell My Melody’s bakery or watch some unique animation at Hello Kitty’s Super Sweet Drive-In. You can go see where Keroppi lives – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

The festival coincides with the 40th anniversary of Hello Kitty. The catlike character with the oversized head, perky whiskers and lack of mouth made its debut on a small purse released by Sanrio in 1975. Since then, Hello Kitty has become a multibillion-dollar brand that’s a staple of childhood toys, clothes, purses, electric guitars, boombox stereos and just about anything that can fit its logo.

But over the decades, as Hello Kitty became an omnipresent part of pop culture, one key fact was missed. Despite the whiskers and trianglelike ears on the top of her head, Sanrio revealed recently that Hello Kitty isn’t a cat at all. The lore of Hello Kitty is more complex than most might have known. Hello Kitty is actually a young human, though a fictional one, whose essence is captured as a cartoon cat.

“Hello Kitty is definitely a little girl that lives outside of London,” said Piper. “She has a twin sister named Mimmy, and a mom and dad, and a hamster named Sugar. She’s a little girl who walks on two legs. Her name is Kitty White but she goes by ‘Hello Kitty.’”

Feline origins or not, Hello Kitty’s overriding cuteness has made her a favorite for all ages. She’s a popular tattoo subject, the theme of a Visa credit card and captured in a high-end line of jewelry created by Kimora Lee Simmons. This kind of multi-age appeal is reflected in the programming of the Hello Kitty Super Cute Friendship Festival.

“Hello Kitty means so many different things to different people, and different things to different ages,” said Piper. “We have something for everyone. If you’re a younger fan, we have coloring and bounce houses. But if you’re older, you will enjoy the couture fashion and merchandise. Hello Kitty is really about fun and friendship and happiness, and that’s what the festival is all about.”

Sacramento is just one stop on a 36-city tour that’ll last through the summer. Each session of the festival lasts three hours – plenty of time to show off that elaborate homemade Hello Kitty costume and soak in a sea of cuteness.

“It’s so much fun and happiness in one place,” said Piper. “There’s no way anyone can leave without a smile on their face.”

Hello Kitty Super Cute Friendship Festival

  • What: An interactive event that includes live performances, photo ops, special merchandise and more, featuring Hello Kitty and friends, including My Melody and Little Twin Stars
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, 1 Sports Parkway, Sacramento
  • When: Friday at noon and 7 p.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; noon Sunday
  • Cost: $18.25-$28.75
  • Information: (916) 928-6900; www.sleeptrainarena.com