HANAPEPE — The brisk winds in Kalaheo stripped leaves from trees and littered the highway with branches and twigs. But in Hanapepe, that same wind gave life to the garland of styrofoam packing peanuts being unpacked by firemen at the Hanapepe Fire Station.
“This is No. 5,” said Janet Kahalekomo who headed up the contingent of 136 “A Plus” students from ‘Ele‘ele School who trekked down the hillside path, through Hanapepe town with their load of ornaments for the Norfolk Christmas tree “planted” at the Hanapepe Town Park.
According to Historic Hanapepe Town Association president Shanlynn Nagamine, the ‘Ele‘ele School students have been decorating the tree “from the beginning.”
The Hanapepe association normally hosts a day-long holiday celebration centered around the park, but this year, Nagamine said they would not have this celebration.
Instead, Kahalekomo brought the A Plus students and their group leaders to spend the afternoon decorating the tree, playing games and enjoying refreshments provided by the HHTA representatives.
“This is our fifth tree we’re decorating,” Kahalekomo said. “The first was the one at the Lihu‘e Airport. Then we did several on campus and now, we’re doing the community tree.”
Joan Marcuse, who has been organizing the park event for the past six years, said, “It’s nice to have a town tree.”
Marcuse said, because the association would not be having their holiday celebration in the park, they arranged for the children to receive little prizes when they arrived with their decorations, and following a snack of juice and cookies, would be eligible for lucky number prizes as well.
“We didn’t know how many children would be coming so we just bought enough so there would be more winners,” Marcuse said. “And we made sure every one was able to get at least a small prize.”
As the students squealed in anticipation of the numbers being called, the Hanapepe Fire Station crew made short work of installing the garlands and the light strings in anticipation of the lighting at sunset.
“This is just a little something for the kids in town,” Marcuse said. “This is memories for when they grow older. We still have people stopping by who remember doing this when they were in ‘Ele‘ele School.”
Kahalekomo said this year’s theme involved recycling.
“Everything on the tree is being reused,” she said. The boughs of the Norfolk were laden with ornaments created out of styrofoam packing peanuts, wreaths created from newspaper bags in an assortment of colors, and lauhala wreaths featuring centerpieces created out of miniature woodroses that grows on the school’s campus.
“The lau hala and woodroses were the main pieces for the tree at the airport,” Kahalekomo said. “The tourists, they love to see these things so we made them for the airport.”
As the firemen put the finishing touches on the tree, the park came alive with the squeals of children enjoying the assortment of games organized by the HHTA.
“We really appreciate the support and wanted to give them recognition for all of their efforts,” Nagamine said. “They do this year after year.”