Parade welcomes season

LIHUE — The Kukui Grove Center welcomed the holiday season with its 21st annual Kauai Christmas Parade Saturday before an audience of hundreds of people ringing the mall’s sidewalks.

“This is the first time Times Supermarket is participating in the parade,” said Gwen Batara, the market’s general manager. “When I got here, I asked if we do this, or go to the shopping center meetings, and was told ‘No.’ We have to do this; be a part of the shopping center; give back to the people who support us.”

The participation paid its dividends as the Times Supermarket/Big Save float, which was made of strung-together shopping carts and fueled by workers from the Kukui Grove store, came in second in the Marching Unit judging.

Na Hoku Pageants, anchored by a bevy of beauties who stopped by the judging stand to perform a unified hula, topped the Marching Units. The Dog Fanciers of Kauai taking the No. 3 spot.

The Kalaheo Elementary School Sunshine Express, under the direction of Laine Griffith, took two awards — second place in the Vehicle/Marching Unit judging, and first place in the Vehicle Unit judging.

“They have a lot of experience,” said Jason Fujinaka of FM97 Radio, one of two announcers along the parade route. “The Sunshine Express has been with this parade from the very first one and know their way around.”

Enveloped by the enthusiastic and happy sounds of children singing holiday melodies and pushing back chilly winds from the north, the pickup-turned-locomotive “Polar Express” pulled the train of cars along the mall route. The cars and cow catcher were already strung up in holiday lights in anticipation of Friday’s annual Rotary Club of Kauai Lights on Rice parade.

The KQNG Radio Group, anchoring the mall’s holiday-opening promotion, topped the Vehicle/Marching Unit judging. On-air personalities Ron Wiley and Mark Valentin distributed the well-known KQNG bananas to eager spectators.

Following the Kalaheo School Sunshine Express in the Vehicle Unit judging, the Kauai Classic Cars with a long line of seasonally decorated classic cars and hot rods filled in the second spot, followed by Sparky riding a jet ski for the Kauai Fire Department Prevention Bureau and Ocean Safety Bureau.

“This weekend, starting with the pre-Black Friday sales, marks the start of the holiday season at the Kukui Grove Center,” said Stacie Chiba-Miguel, the assistant real estate manager at Kukui Grove.

“We’ve got a lot of the tenants open extended holiday hours, and the others should be joining in the holiday hours shortly.”

Shoppers can find a schedule of special events, including picture-taking with Santa, Toddler Thursdays and other holiday specials, posted around the mall, or at www.kukuigrovecenter.com.

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