Crowd sings of Hiraoka at 1st KVMH bon dance

WAIMEA — There is no question the event will only grow next year, Stel Pimental said Friday night on the front lawn of Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital.

“People will hear about this and how good it is and next year, it’ll be even bigger,” she said while visiting with relatives who were enjoying the first-ever bon dance hosted by KVMH.

Brycen Hiraoka, a member of the KVMH Auxiliary and a worker in the hospital’s kitchen, said the bon dance has been a dream of his since he started working there.

“The hospital has never had a bon dance,” said Hiraoka, an avid bon dancer. “We had the space on the lawn.”

Hiraoka got help from Steve Kline, the KVMH Auxiliary and a huge following of supporters from the community to pull together the bon dance benefiting the hospital’s auxiliary.

“I’ve got members of my family and the auxiliary doing the cooking in the food booth,” Hiraoka said. “And one of the families of our residents is running the country store and fish pond.”

And the crowds came.

“I could hear everything from my house,” said Dave Walker, who rolled up in his fold-up bicycle.

Pimental commented on how nice it was that KVMH could house both their residents as well as accommodate the residents from the nearby Kaua‘i Care Center.

“Some of these people would never be able to attend a bon dance otherwise,” said Clyde Kodani, one of The Men of the Koi Dynasty who provided two special numbers prior to the bon dance. “The ring is bigger than I thought it would be and there are a lot of people. Parking is no problem because of the Waimea Canyon Middle School. It’s really good.”

The Men of the Koi Dynasty started out as a group of men who decided they didn’t want to spend bon dances just watching. After getting help from one of the bon dance instructors, they started learning the bon dances. The group now numbers about 20 men.

They will be performing at the final bon dance of the year, Thursday, at the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital courtyard starting around 6 p.m.

The Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko group treated the throng of attendees enjoying the cool evening under near-full moon conditions to a full-blown presentation, extending to almost 45 minutes and bringing the dancers into the ring with an updated version of “Asatoya Yunta.”

Glenna Ueunten, one of the group’s advisers, said they just got approval to perform this new number which had the dancers working up to steam in the high-paced Okinawa number.

Despite the food — including a menu of kiawe-broiled chicken, flying saucers, hot dogs and other popular bon dance menu items — going fast, Randall Francisco of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce noted the reasonable pricing of the cuisine.

“In these tight economic times, it’s good they think about the people,” Francisco said while enjoying the evening with Dr. Cindy Goldstein of Pioneer Hi-Bred who provided some of their field lighting equipment to help light up the facility.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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