WAIMEA — After the count down, the lights came on.
And when they did, Waimea town shone.
“That,” said 8-year-old Grant Parker after all the green, red and white bulbs illuminated Hofguard Park, “was cool.”
The fourth annual Christmas tree lighting ignited a day later than usual Tuesday, but around 100 people gathered in Hofguard Park in what’s becoming a preview celebration to the town’s big parade the Saturday before Christmas.
The event is put on by the West Kauai Business and Professional Association as a way to bring people to downtown at the start of the holiday season to promote businesses and give residents and visitors a kick start to the season.
This year’s theme focused on the keiki, who were ushered around the park in a decorated, festive train. Disney characters dressed, dance and sang before the countdown. No question, it was all about the kids.
“I really liked it,” said Laura Medinit, who brought her baby, Aweialina, down for the event. “I just had my first baby so I brought her. I really enjoyed it.”
Penny Young helped coordinate the celebration that featured around 100 strands of lights with 100 bulbs on each, plus another 20 nets that each had 25 bulbs.
Added together, that’s a whole lot of lights. Like 10,500 of ‘em.
“The focus is on the youth,” she said. “Each year is different. I personally love children so I wanted to focus on the kids.”
The relatively new event is usually reserved for Dec. 1. But Monday’s inauguration of the new County Council pushed the party back a day. New was a keiki train, which drove the children around the park before the sun went down and it was time for the lights.
“As long as it makes the kids smile, they don’t have a lot of that stuff here, it makes it worth it,” said Noelani Evans, who helped load and unload young passengers in the train she and her husband own and donated for the celebration. “That’s the reward.”
On the Saturday before Christmas, Waimea hosts its annual Christmas parade. That’s in its 22nd year, but the new lighting ceremony is becoming a nice tradition to kick off the season, said Bob Westerman, WKBPA treasurer. It started as an idea to help create activity in downtown.
“Once the lights go up, everyone in town puts their lights up,” he said. “It kind of lights up the town.”