Festival of Lights is 20 years old

LIHUE — Elizabeth Freeman, founder of the Festival of Lights, said the wonderland of lights would not be possible without the help of volunteers.

“Festival of Lights uniquely brings together the value and unique creativity of recycling and Christmas,” said Lori Michimoto of Michimoto Communications. “What started as one woman’s hobby of Christmas eco-crafting 50 years ago has grown into a production so complex that it requires thousands of volunteer hours and private and public funding.”

Work on this year’s 20th anniversary set-up started recently as crews from the Kauai Fire Department, Oceanic Cablevision and Hawaiian Telcom secured strings of colorful holiday lights among the trees fronting the historic County Building.

The Pi‘ikoi Design Studio, also known as ‘Santa’s Workshop,’ was set up last week with the help of volunteers from the Life-Time Stand program at the Kauai Community Correctional Center, Freeman said.

Freeman said for the 20th anniversary, the illuminated Christmas folk art inspired displays will be featuring a magical mermaid undersea sand castle created by Rizalyn Llego Ogata.

The sand castle will be joined by The Beautiful Kauai Tree and The Starfish Tree.

Work continued on the outdoor installations through the remainder of the week with help from Service Rentals and Toolmaster who provide the Genie lifts.

“This is progress,” said Kauai Battalion Fire Chief Shawn Hosaka. “Remember the first years when we started, how we had to use ladders and so many people? Using these Genies and lifts make this so much easier and faster.”

Keith Ruiz of Oceanic Cablevision has been volunteering at the installation for the past 18 years.

“Yep,” he said. “I’ve been here since Day 1. It’s not hard work, and when you see the enjoyment from the people when the display gets turned on, it’s not hard to come and volunteer.”

The 20th anniversary of the Festival of Lights is scheduled to begin its holiday run at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 with the help of the Kauai Chorale.

Jane Gray, Kauai Museum director, said that is the same day as the Kauai Museum’s Christmas Craft Fair that runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., coinciding its close with the annual Lights on Rice holiday light parade that starts after the Festival of Lights are turned on.

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