LIHUE — “There’s always tons of coconuts, absolutely everywhere.”
So says Bob Bartolo, vice president of the Kapaa Business Association, when describing the organization’s biggest event, which takes place this weekend.
Which makes sense, because it’s the 19th annual Coconut Festival at Kapaa Beach Park.
Event goers can dive into a coconut-themed world, complete with cooking demonstrations and contests, music, dancing, vendors and games. The festival also teaches the many uses for the nut, as well as the rest of the tree.
But the fruit and its rock hard shell aren’t used solely for food.
In the past, the festival has boasted games like coconut bowling and coconut basketball. More traditional Hawaiian games, and a petting zoo, have also been a part of the display.
“We have lots and lots of entertainment for children,” Bartolo said. “It’s very family oriented, so kids can go play coconut games while the adults shop.”
For both days, Bartolo said there will be live music.
Nathan Aweau will be on the main stage at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Raiatea Helm will headline at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. There is also a stage where Kauai’s kids will be performing.
Kap Te ‘o Tafiti will be performing twice a day with his demonstrations of Polynesian culture, like splitting open a coconut with a rock and creating fire with only two sticks.
“I still have not been able to do what Kap does,” Bartolo said. “He splits the coconut down the middle and all the water is saved on both sides. He also shows us how to make fire with just a coconut.”
On Sunday, there will be a coconut-based cooking contest, open to anyone. Entrants must make a desert or appetizer with — surprise — coconut as an ingredient. It will be judged on taste and presentation. First prize is $100 but other prizes like dinner for two will be given out.
Those wanting to enter the contest can find the entry form online at kbakauai.org
Professional chefs are going to be doing their own presentations, but for those who want to try their hand at eating, instead of cooking, there will be an opportunity to put your stomach to the test in a coconut cream pie-eating contest.
Plenty of food vendors will be scattered throughout Kapaa Beach Park.
Bartolo came up with the idea for the festival 19 years ago just after he and his family moved here from New Jersey. He had become involved with the Kapaa Business Association, which was looking to develop the area’s image as the Royal Coconut Coast.
“I said, ‘Why not have a coconut festival, and make it a big event?’” Bartolo said. “What we wanted to do was incorporate coconut into everything since the history of the Royal Coconut Coast is so prominent.”
Kauai’s eastern coastline is nicknamed the Royal Coconut Coast because it is historically where Hawaiian royalty lived, as well as where the coconut plantations were created.
Six years after the festival’s inception, The Food Network featured the Eastside event as have several other programs since.
“The whole community came together and backed us and we’ve had some wonderful events,” Bartolo said. “It was a lot of hard work to get it started, but it was worth it.”
The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5.