Family and icing bind gingerbread houses

LIHU’E — “It was something unique,” Jackson Fong said as he worked on a project with Kira Kashiwa.

“It’s something different for a one-day vacation,” Fong added.

The couple had flown into Lihu’e at 8 a.m., and were part of the 10 a.m. shift at the fourth annual Gingerbread Festival held Saturday at Kukui Grove Center.

Proceeds from the popular family event goes to benefit the Easter Seals of Kaua’i, and Shayne Tokita, director of the Kaua’i facility on ‘Akahi Street in Lihu’e, said, “This year we sold over 90 kits. This is the most we’ve gone through.”

The Saturday event was the fourth for Easter Seals, but the first for Kukui Grove Center Marketing Director Jonell Tafua.

“This is the first time I’ve been to this event, and it’s really good,” she said.

Tafua was helping Tokita and the other Easter Seals volunteers clear tables and make preparations for those on the second shift of house-building who were expected at noon.

Malia Koerte was outside the space provided by the shopping center, but quickly disappeared inside to check on the progress of her family’s creation. Members of the Koerte family were enjoying their fourth gingerbread festival.

“The first year, you remember the garage?” Tony Koerte laughed.

For Saturday’s event, the children assumed the role of supervisors, as Tony Koerte worked through the project under their direction.

Kylie Uehara had just come from a T-ball game at the Lihu’e County Park, and had just enough time to work on her project before having to report back for the closing ceremonies of the Lihu’e Baseball League.

“This year, I’m working at Sears, so I’m just making a short visit to check on the students,” said Dorothy Hoe, advisor for the Kaua’i High School Leo Club. “They’re doing all right, so now I gotta go back to work.”

For many of the Leo Club volunteers, this was their second service project of the morning. Several of them also belong to the Red Raider Key Club that was involved in their Adopt-A-Highway cleanup earlier in the morning.

Bronte Acosta took advantage of a bye week for Waimea High School soccer to come to the shopping center to work on a gingerbread house, and Tien and Mia Soderstrom took advantage of the availability of gingerbread cookies to vent their excess energy generated from creating their house with mom Annelise. This was their second year at the festival.

As the individual projects began to wind down, the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative team arrived along with the Kaua’i Community College culinary-arts team for their competition in the commercial division.

“That is the only one that is judged,” Tokita said. “The individual projects are all winners.”

“We gotta see what everybody is doing,” KCC culinary-arts student Richard Cariaga said as this group wandered through the aisles of tables and benches set up for the event.

Meanwhile, members of the KIUC squad, always an intense, competitive group, lugged in container after container of accessories before donning specially created aprons for the event.

“You remember last year when the KCC students wheeled in shopping carts of stuff?” Tokita asked. “This year, KIUC out-did them in terms of how many containers they brought in.”

Dean Nakayama, proprietor of Kauai Bakery & Cinnamon, could not help but peek in the window at the ongoing activity.

Upon learning of the special trip made by Fong and Kashiwa, Lei Nakayama packed a special container of malasadas, cherry and cream-cheese turnovers, and some Kaua’i-style, creme-filled malasadas, for the couple to enjoy.

“When my friends find out we were here, they going kill us if we don’t call them,” Fong laughed. The couple was scheduled to leave Kaua’i on the 8 p.m. flight.

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