For the love of coconuts

KAPAA — Earlene Benefield of Kirkland, Washington, was enjoying her second iced coconut in as many days Saturday morning as showers pattered on the tents at the Coconut Festival.

“I had one yesterday,” Benefield said. “It wasn’t here at the Coconut Festival, but I love these things so I’m having another. I had some in Washington and they were terrible. I had to throw them out.”

Benefield was among the steady stream of people flowing into the Kapaa Beach Park to enjoy the festival celebrating the coconut and all things coconut presented by the Kapaa Business Association.

“I’ve been volunteering at this festival for 19 years,” said Linda Machado of the Bank of Hawaii. “I did miss a year, but I’ve been here from the start because this event is so good for the community — the kids, the crafters and artists — and it represents Kauai.”

Liisa Vandermeer said when her dad, Paul Vilja, came to visit her, he saw a coconut rolling in the surf and said it reminded him of a head.

That vision triggered a long line of coconut heads Vilja has produced since moving here in 1990. Saturday, he joined Vandermeer at the craft and cultural tent carving coconut heads.

“I’m glad he’s back,” said Richard Sibthorpe who had some Paul Vilja coconut creations at his table that also contained carimbas, a half coconut shell fitted with metal keys atop a sounding board. “He was here the first couple of years, and then I didn’t see him.”

Larry Rivera, longtime Kauai entertainer and songwriter, composed a song, “Coconuts,” just for the festival which is celebrating its 20th year with entertainment, cultural displays, contests and food.

Rivera played Saturday and will play today.

Elena Camat was one of the vendors who created a special coconut pretzel for the Coconut Festival.

“I’ve been here for four years,” Camat said. “That’s when I developed the coconut pretzel — just for the festival. This year, I came up with a new flavor: coffee coconut.”

The festivities continue 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Kapaa Beach Park.

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