KOLOA — Thousands of people braved the early morning showers to experience the climax of the nine-day Koloa Plantation Days celebration, Saturday.
With tires sliding on wet grass in the improvised parking area to accomodate the masses, people made their way with umbrellas in-hand to view the event.
Arryl Kaneshiro chaired the parade this year with Aunty Stella Burgess at his side to make sure he had everything under control.
Brothers Crisogono and Artemio Melchor were honored as the parade marshals, both having worked for Koloa Plantation, Grove Farm and McBryde Sugar Company. Crisogono worked in the boiling house and retired in 1982 while Artemio worked as a mechanic, retiring in 1988.
The Melchor brothers represented the Sakadas, men who left the Philippines to work in the Hawai‘i sugar plantations, the first group landing here 65 years ago.
Another Filipino group, the Batanes, came to work the pineapple and sugar fields of Hawai‘i and traces their roots from the northernmost islands of the Philippines, midway between Luzon and Taiwan.
Descendants and residents of the Batanes, who worked the sugar plantations in Makaweli and Koloa, came from O‘ahu, California, New Mexico and Florida to reunite with their Spanish Camp group for the parade.
Their walking unit finished third in that category and their decorated vehicle finished second behind the unit hosted by the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club.
The hotel’s general manager, Christina Gabriel, piloted the vehicle which finished first in the judging, decorated with island flowers, sugar cane and pineapple.
It carried a special guest, kumu hula Doric Kaleonui Yaris, honored with an award of aloha for all things Hawaiian.
Yaris is the kumu of Halau Hula O Hali‘ileo and the Kaleo Club International.
The Waiohai also captured second place with its float that triggered memories of chasing birds, hand-picking pineapple and cutting cane while grandma is at home teaching keiki.
The Waiohai’s mounted unit, adorned in green and red, symbolic of the strength being demonstrated by Japan to pull through in the face of difficult times, also captured second place honors below the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i.
Adorned in different colored palaka shirt, as mentioned by Kaua‘i County Council member Dickie Chang who was joined by Julie Souza as one of the emcees, the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i equestrian unit earned top honors in the Mounted Unit and was also presented the Best Overall Unit in the parade.
The Koloa Homegrown Riders, voted third in Mounted Unit, is a group of women who emigrated to Kaua‘i from the Mainland many years ago and grew up with their roots entwined with the plantation life, their children sleeping to the sound of haul canes trucks at harvest time, fishing for tilapia at Waita Reservoir, riding bikes to Po‘ipu and camping overnight at Maha‘ulepu.
Koloa Elementary School, supported by its robotics program, finished third in the Decorated Vehicle judging.
Kukui‘ula Development topped the Floats judging, the unit extracting a comment from Chang about the real papaya tree. Troy Lazaro headlined the Waiohai float which finished second in judging followed by the Old Koloa Town unit which showed two anglers perched high above the ocean trying to catch fish while dolphins play.
A full day of park activities headlined by a string of entertainers, crafters, food booths and keiki activities closed off the day.
The Paddle Fest at Po‘ipu Beach Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today wraps up this year’s Koloa Plantation Days celebration.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.