Waimea celebration fills town to capacity

WAIMEA — “The traffic! Look! It’s all the way back to Pakala and it’s not moving,” one motorist yelled out his window while waiting in the line of cars along Waimea’s main highway.

Stuck in that line were horse trailers destined to be at the former Waimea Dairy location for the opening of the Keiki and High School Rodeo in 15 minutes. That was not going to happen.

Cars lined the highway and every space that could possibly be used for parking was occupied by a metal steed.

On the back road, the lawn fronting the Waimea Pier had been opened up for additional parking for paddlers taking part in the Kilohana regatta that also marked the start of the Garden Island Racing Canoe Association. That lot was also filled with overflow parking threatening the sign that marked “access to a garage sale.”

Thousands of people swarmed to the annual Waimea Town Celebration Friday and Saturday night.

“It was beautiful,” said Chris Fayé, one of the event organizers, while trying to get a vantage point for the start of the canoe race. “The moon was out, and with the lightning in the background, it was beautiful. The only thing that went out were the street lights, for a while, but it didn’t even rain.”

The canoe race was just one facet of a myriad of activities, entertainment and food that primarily benefits a lot of the nonprofit organizations on Kaua‘i’s Westside and coordinated by the West Kaua‘i Business Association.

“Don’t forget our track meet,” Rich Minero of the Rotary Club of West Kaua‘i said between rotating the cooking pronto pups. “It’s going to be our 60th year and it’s coming up soon.”

Gene Otoman was making his way between cars fronting the West Kaua‘i Tech Center, a plastic bag secure in his hands.

“Gotta come early and get the pancit,” he said of the popular Filipino dish prepared by the people from the Kaua‘i Care Center.

Because of its nature, the pancit was prepared ahead of time and brought to the site of the old Waimea mill, the focal point of the two-day celebration.

At the tech center, a variety of activities also drew people to that site, where they could admire the wide variety of lei from this year’s lei contest.

“They make this in school, except they use macaroni,” Janet Kahalekomo, one of the contest winners said.

A kupuna with the ‘Ele‘ele School, Kahalekomo coached one of her great-granddaughters and, using just one bag of Tootie Fruiti cereal, the youngster won one of the grand prizes for her creation using the colorful cereal.

“They go with me everywhere,” Kahalekomo said of her grandchildren. “And they always are busy. They’re so busy they don’t even have time to do the not-nice things like smoking and drinking.”

Another of Kahalekomo’s grandchildren was manning a table offering shell and beach glass jewelry.

Manny Rapozo, another of the top winners in the lei contest, said he doesn’t like to see anything go to waste.

He pointed out a wedding ensemble featuring roses he created out of coconut fiber, an item he described as “opala.” Among his offerings was a unique crown flower lei he made using a broken mandolin string.

“It’s the smallest one,” he said. “You make it into a needle and sew the flowers.”

This is the technique he used to win top honors in the Adult, Beautiful category, a serpentine crown flower lei anchored on each end with a scarlet red ribbon flower.

In another section, the team of Larry Simbre and Jerry Balderson were transforming milo limbs into various works of art, stopping to negotiate with Faye for some of the branches in her yard.

A visiting artist had also set up shop in one corner of the tech center, noting her visit to the islands just happened to coincide with the celebration.

The organizers “were really nice,” she said. “They just told me to bring my stuff down to show. There is a lot of aloha in this event.”

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