Imu service part of Hawaiian experience

PUHI — The fire fueled by chunks of kiawe logs was not just to warm bodies in the chill that arrived with the setting of the sun at Kaua’i Community College. “It feels good,” one student said, turning her back to the golden flames.

“It’s for the experience,” Kaohu Harada said. Harada, a former KCC Hawaiian-studies student, was on hand to lend her experienced hand in working the load of about four

dozen prepared bundles of Thanksgiving meats for their imu service Wednesday night.

Dennis Chun, one of the Hawaiian-studies instructors, said that they don’t advertise the service, because it’s not about making money.

At least three imu services were available for this year’s Thanksgiving. Out in Kapa’a, the Kapa’a High School Hawaiian- studies program organizers used their imu service as a fund-raiser to send some of their students to the upcoming Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island.

In Waimea, people were welcome to contribute a donation with their drop-offs that were being accepted at Waimea High School Wednesday afternoon.

“They were the first,” Harada said. “Waimea High School had the first imu service, but dropped out for a while. We got the idea from them. This year, they’re back.”

The KCC Hawaiian-studies program instructors, students and alumni have been hosting an imu service for the past three years, with their second year being featured on national television as part of the A&E (Arts & Entertainment) Network’s presentation of “The Top 20 Small Town Celebrations.”

Stevens was the president of the Hawaiian Club when she and instructor Chun were videotaped by local videographer/producer Katie Beer for the segment.

“But this is all for the experience,” Harada pointed out. “We want the students to experience everything which is why we’re here (watching the fire). They need to be there to accept the turkeys as they come in.

“They have to go through the process of gathering the ti leaves, the banana leaves and stalks, and cleaning everything,” Harada said.

As the last vestiges of daylight turned the clear, crisp night sky into a deep electric blue, the rocks in the imu were turning a deep red, signaling the pit’s readiness to accept its load of meats that included turkey, Boston butts, and even ham.

“It’ll all come out tomorrow morning (Thursday), early,” Stevens piped in.

“When the sun comes up, it’ll be ready.”

As the load was transferred from the classroom to the imu, students broke into different groups to wet down the burlap and canvas in preparation for placing into the imu, and conversation switched to what was on the menu for dinner.

Chun, who earlier in the day was harvesting some kalo (taro) from the KCC garden in preparation for the imu firing, said, “It’s so the students can have hands-on learning. Besides, I don’t need to work so hard.”

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