WAIMEA — After eight days of celebrating on the Westside, organizers and volunteers of the Waimea Town Celebration can take a breath and relax — for now.
“When I took control of the event four years ago, it wasn’t running as efficient as it should be,” said Thomas Nizo, chairman for the Waimea Town Celebration. “Making some shifts every year … it makes it a little bit of a surprise instead of the same thing every year.”
Highlights for Nizo included the cocktails and tasting event, the film festival and the Ambassador of Aloha presentation.
“For me this year, tasting the $500 sake, the movie ‘Eagle Huntress’ was amazing, and to have Natalie and Iolani Kamau‘u playing for us was a treat,” he said.
Overall, the West Kauai Business and Professional Association, a sponsor of the eight-day celebration, raised about $50,000.
“It’s not about a fundraiser for us per say. It’s more of helping the community and nonprofit organizations,” Nizo said. “We do make a profit from the beer garden and the soda booth, but it’s just to get reinvested in the community when we did events like the Waimea Light Parade and the entertainment that goes into that.”
This year, the attendance for the beginning part of the week was an improvement from previous years, said Puni Patrick, Nizo’s right-hand lady and organizer of the film festival.
“I’m grateful to see people are realizing the festival is eight days and not just two,” she said. “Everything ran smoothly and the weather was perfect. I don’t know how we could have made the 40th anniversary better. Everyone was kind to each other. All of our nonprofit groups that were able to get a booth at the last two days, a lot of them did really well.”
She wished more vendors could have participated over the final two days.
“It’s hard to accommodate everybody in that space. It really is a party, and it’s fun to see people you haven’t seen for a year. That’s the great part,” she said.
Carl Wend, who’s attended the festival for several years, congratulated organizers.
“The couple who runs the festival does a super job,” he said. “I’m a European extraction, first generation American, so I learned a lot about Hawaiian culture and I often wonder what the locals think of all the tourists that come here.”
Nearly 2,000 volunteers donated their time to make the celebration possible.
“Just from my core group, there’s about 38. Each one of 38 people brings behind them 50 deep for each organization,” Nizo said. “From August, I think we clocked in this year almost 48,000 volunteer man hours for the whole project.”
Nizo said planning next year’s event starts today.
“Some of the changes might just be every day around 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., we’ll have a mini craft fair and some mini entertainment in Hofgaard Park,” he said. “A lot of the tourists come through and say, ‘It’s eight days, but where are the events?”
Incorporating more local businesses from outside West Kauai to participate — Wailua, Kilauea and Hanalei for example — will broaden community support.
“We want to bring that to Waimea, and have Waimea get a taste of the Green Pig or a food truck from Princeville,” he said. “Maybe it will entice the Waimea people to cross that bridge and enjoy (other parts of the island) once in awhile.”
Patrick is looking forward to meeting with town celebration committee members and gathering feedback.
“Just being able to get with them and celebrate together our core group that has been working together for over a year, I really want to be able to celebrate what we accomplished,” she said. “The Ambassador of Aloha event was my favorite out of everything. To have such a great Hawaiian singer like Natalie to come to Kauai to be able to see it for only $10, and then to honor a guy in our community who does so much, it’s like all those things wrapped up together filled up my cup. It made all of the planning and meetings last year so worthwhile.”