Santa trades reindeer for a hog

Santa Claus was definitely not in his element Sunday.

Instead of snow and reindeer, he was surrounded by a sea of motorcycles at the annual Keiki Toy Run that started from the historic County Building.

“I’m getting nervous,” said Russell Haluapo, the event organizer. “It’s getting so big.”

One rider estimated at least 400 motorcycles turned out for the annual event that yielded toys earmarked for Kaua‘i’s needy children.

Haluapo said he started the event 18 years ago with only a handful of riders.

Yesterday, one of the riders estimated the street value of all the motorcycles at more than the county’s operating budget.

Haluapo said this year’s collection will be heading to children at the YWCA shelter, the Lihu‘e Town Court and other children through the efforts of the New Hope Church and pastor Doug Kozub.

“I don’t want anyone saying we treat one child special over others,” Haluapo said. “This is why we choose a church to help distribute the collection.”

Roger Hanks, whose career is designing closets, made full use of his career skills as the van, fashioned like a closet on wheels, was filled with the toys that flowed in.

Hanks was the point man for the New Hope Church, this year’s beneficiary.

In previous years, the motorcyclists have contributed toys to needy children in Anahola and other Kaua‘i communities.

“This year, we have some riders from Maui,” Haluapo told the gathering of riders. “They decided they would forego the ride on O‘ahu to join us here on Kaua‘i.”

In addition to the Maui riders, Angela Parker was here from the Big Island to ride with the Kaua‘i riders.

“This is big,” Parker said. “On O‘ahu, the riders spend several hours passing out the toys and having fun after the ride, but this is fun.”

In this sea of leather-jacketed riders, Santa was at home, greeting each rider with a candy cane as they pulled into the parking lot at the historic County Building.

“Some of these bikes are in garages and come out only for this,” Parker said. “You never see a lot of these bikes except for events like this.”

Picking up the front line and serving as escorts for Santa, the Sons of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i Chapter, were out in full regalia.

One spectator noted this group also made an appearance at the Nawiliwili Christmas Craft Fair Saturday where they brought in loads of toys and food from Costco for the Foster Children program.

The Sunday quiet exploded with the rumble of hundreds of engines as the convoy began its movement to Waimea with a return trip through Po‘ipu.

Cars stopped in their tracks, smothered by the din of the two-wheeled engines that roared in the Sunday morning air for a good 30 minutes as the surging sea of leather-jacketed metal steeds rumbled past the historic County Building like a giant serpent.

And, in this scene, representatives of the Lihu‘e Town Court paid tribute with a hula as the last of the motorcycles flowed past.

The sentiment of the riders was echoed best by Tom Leighton of Two Wheels as he handed over his contribution to Hana Hanks.

“It’s all for the kids,” Leighton said.

“We do a lot of things, but this is the biggest because it’s all for the kids.”

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