LIHUE — Pua Peters has been attending the annual Lights on Rice Parade since she can remember.
“It’s tradition,” she said. “It’s Hawaii.”
Peters and her family always try to get a spot on Eiwa Street because, not only is it along the parade route, it also is a safe place for her kids to run around.
“We get a front-row seat and let them play until it starts,” she said. “When it starts, we let them get in front of us.”
Peters was one of thousands of young and old who flocked to Rice Street and its surrounding roads on a warm Friday evening to ring in the season.
Anticipation grew as the clock slowly ticked closer to 6:30 p.m. A chorus of “3, 2, 1” rang out as the Christmas lights turned on at the Historic County Building.
Some people, like Candie Dagel and Kelly Borgert, laid their chairs out early Friday morning to ensure a prime spot along the parade route.
“I took my son to school and came straight here,” Borgert said.
Dagel marked her spot at 7 a.m.
“And there were chairs here already,” she said.
People craned their necks to get a first look at the oncoming parade that featured floats, bands, decorated cars and trucks, adults wearing Santa caps and, of course, Santa Claus — including Santa in the shower.
Holidays tunes filled the air, as did shouts and cries from excited keiki.
Dagel loves sharing Kauai’s Christmas parade with her three-year-old daughter.
“It’s exciting to watch her experience and her expressions as it changes every year,” she said.
Dagel, originally from Montana, said the parade puts her in the Christmas spirit.
“It doesn’t get cold here, so this gets us in the mood,” she said.
It’s a sentiment Cheryl Waters, who got to the route at 5:30 p.m., echoed.
“We’re from Ohio, and it can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit when you’re used to being in a snowy place.”
The tradition of putting chairs out so early for a parade is unique to Hawaii, Peters said.
“That’s Hawaii for you,” she said.
Waters, who retired to Princeville in 2014, said this was the first year she attended the parade.
“I’m looking forward to do something fun with my grandson,” she said.
Borgert, who lives in Hanamaulu, has been attending the parade for four years.
“The kids really enjoy it, and it’s a good family event. I hope it stays that way,” she said.