Harvesting pumpkins in Waimea

WAIMEA — Free horseback rides, free petting zoo, free bounce houses and water features played a back seat to the free pumpkins Sunday during the Second Harvest Festival at the Waimea Canyon Park.

“These are all Kauai-grown,” said Sandi Kato- Klutke of the Kauai County Farm Bureau as workers unloaded truckload after truckload of golden pumpkins into a tent where children could dive in and grab a free pumpkin while supplies lasted. “It’s one pumpkin per family. If there are any left over toward the end of the day, people are welcome to come and get more.”

Beth Tokioka of Syngenta Seeds said the pumpkins were provided through the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association with nearly 500 pumpkins being available for festival-goers.

“Syngenta Seeds, Dow Agrosciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASF are all members of the HCIA,” Tokioka said. “We’ve been distributing to schools, had free giveaways at the Kukui Grove Center and at the Kauai Community Market at the Kauai Community College. By the time we’re done with the Harvest Festival, we’ve gone through at least a thousand pumpkins.”

In addition to the pumpkins, other Kauai farm products from Makaweli Meat Company, Kauai Shrimp, M&H Kaneshiro Farms and Kauai Coffee contributed products which were dispensed from various community nonprofits, many of them schools, with the proceeds going back to benefit them, Tokioka said. Liz Hahn of Kauai Bettas was selling fish with the proceeds being earmarked to help schools.

“We’re lucky we have volunteers like Mitchell and Laurie Kali and Johnny Vaivao who can cook,” said Sgt. Major Keith Castaneda of the Waimea High School Junior ROTC. “This means I don’t need to do this. I can do errands.”

Patsy Rapozo was one of the early diners enjoying a hamburger steak bowl made from the Makaweli Beef Company stock.

“This is especially good,” Rapozo said. “I need to pick up a couple more before going home.”

Other nonprofits benefiting from the park overflowing with people enjoying the cooling trades and warm sunshine included the St. Theresa School, Waimea High School Project Grad, a Pioneer Relay for Life team, the West Kauai Methodist Church, and more.

“We’ve got the Kauai Coffee team selling coffee, so that means our people could make baked goods, and we have ice cream from Waimea, too,” said Mary Jean Buza-Sims, the principal of St. Theresa School. “We truly appreciate all of the community support.”

As people flitted between the different activity stations, Mrs. Nash Bajo of Kekaha quietly watched her grandchildren’s pumpkins from the shelter of a large tent.

“I have never seen so many pumpkins in my life,” Bajo said. “This is so good because everything goes back to help the community.”

The Harvest Festival was sponsored by the Kauai County Farm Bureau, the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, the County of Kauai and the Family and Friends of Agriculture.

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