Honoring the past

KOLOA — It has been 78 years since the first parade in Koloa was held, but Kalaheo resident Betsy Toulon can remember riding in it when the town celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Old Koloa Sugar Mill on Kauai.

The Kalaheo resident and Kundsen family descendent recalls that everyone in the informal parade dressed up in clothes worn by people in 1835.

“My sisters and I wore hula clothes and some of the men wore top hats made out of paper or something,” said Toulon, who accepted an invitation to be the grand marshal for this year’s annual Koloa Plantation Days parade. “It was a lot of fun.”

The 95-year-old said the parade has changed and become more organized since that time, but hasn’t lost its meaning for the local community, parade participants and even visitors to the island.

“This is a very fine festival,” Toulon said after her car pulled in at the end of the parade route at Anne Knudsen Park. “I’m amazed that this many people are here.“

About 400 lined the main streets of Koloa for this year’s Koloa Plantation Days parade that included a performance from the all-Kauai members of the state marching band, horseback riders, and elaborate floats displaying this year’s “Story of our Heritage” theme.

Arryl Kaneshiro, one of this year’s parade organizers, said 60 businesses and community organizations participated in this year’s parade, including the Lawai Beach Resort, Salvation Army, Koloa Elementary School and Marriott Vacation Club.

“There wouldn’t be a parade if there weren’t so many participants, so I thank them for coming out for the community,” Kaneshiro said after the parade at Anne Knudsen Park.

Koloa resident Chelise Kaaihue, who waited about an hour near Anne Kundsen Park for the parade to start, said the wait was well worth it.

“It’s a tradition here in Koloa,” Kaaihue said. “I used to fly home from college (at University of Hawaii at Manoa) just to come home to enjoy it. It wasn’t a far travel, but we still did it to come out and support the community.”

John Maceachern of Manhattan Beach, Calif., who is visiting Kauai for two weeks, said the parade has a special meaning for him and his family.

He said they have commemorated wedding anniversaries and other milestones when the parades were taking place.

“Where we live, we have what is called the Hometown Parade every year, which is very similar to this one,” Maceachern said.

“It reminds us of home, so we’re very comfortable here.”

County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura called the parade one of the stellar events of the year.

“It’s really great, because it brings the community together and helps us remember the history of this community,” she said.

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-3681 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com.

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