The Koloa Plantation Days celebrates and commemorates the area’s roots, as Koloa was the site of the first commercial sugar mill in the state.
“One thing we really enjoy about this festival, it celebrates all the cultures which come together in Hawaii,” said Melissa McFerrin-Warrack, planning committee chair and event coordinator for Koloa Plantation Days. “You can learn about whether it’s Japanese culture, Hawaiian host culture, Chinese culture, Portuguese — they were all the different plantation camps.”
The 31st annual Koloa Plantation Days starts today, the first of 10 days of events and cultural heritage celebrations throughout Koloa and Poipu.
Before it’s over, thousands will enjoy Hawaiian games, music, fire dancing, cooking demonstrations, a documentary on the sugar era, fishing, fun runs and a parade.
“There is such a wide variety of activity of music of food of games of ways to express and explore it,” McFerrin-Warrack said.
Festivities kick off today with preliminary roping to qualify for the 17th annual Koloa Plantation Days Rodeo on Saturday and Sunday at CJM Stables, with at least 500 ropers scheduled to participate in the preliminary event.
The fifth annual Music in Country, also at CJM Country Stables, is tonight. There will be rodeo action with bulls, barrels and mutton busting.
Janine Wilson, CJM Country Stables rodeo events coordinator, has been part of the rodeo festivities at the Koloa Plantation Days for eight years and is coordinating the event this year.
“For the first time on Kauai, we’ll have mutton busting,” Wilson said. “It gives our small kids — 50 pounds and under — a chance to take their first bull ride on top of a sheep. It’s a real fun event to watch the kids.”
Wilson said she looks forward to patrons enjoying the heritage of the paniolo cowboy.
“Here on Kauai, there (are) many ranches that still follow those traditions today, with many generations of children coming up and some of them growing up and learning how to ride a horse before being able to learn how to walk,” she said.
Coinciding with the plantation days is the opening celebration of St. Raphael’s Church’s 175th anniversary, which held its first mass in Dec. 25, 1841. A coffee hour and talk story will be at St. Raphael’s Church on Saturday, followed by the historic Hapa Trail walk.
“We’re so happy to be a part of this,” said Brenda Sameshima, St. Raphael’s Church 175th anniversary chairperson.
Sameshima said three, long-time parishioners will represent the church as the grand marshals for the parade: Tina Brun, Hazel Bukoski, and Perfecto “Kiyong” Labrador.
A Koloa Plantation Days tradition that will reemerge is the Sunset Ho‘olaulea at Poipu Beach Athletic Club from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday.There will be a free concert and food and drinks for purchase.
“(The Koloa Plantation Days) is an important part of our community,” said Jody Kjeldsen, Poipu Beach Resort Association executive director. “I think it’s a great event that brings the resident and resident community together.”