Kauai gears up for Fourth of July

LIHUE — Mary Ellen Hurley hopes to show her out-of-town nephew how people on Kauai come together to celebrate.

“I want him to see how the community is, and for him to meet other kids his age,” she said.

So Hurley is taking him to the Kauai Hospice annual Independence Day Friendraiser.

“It’s a family affair, and that’s why I like it,” she said. “I’m from a small town in Oregon, so I love the feeling of everyone getting together.”

Hurley, whose 12-year-old nephew is visiting from Texas, likes the event at Vidinha Stadium because it highlights local people.

“It’s local vendors, local food and local music,” she said.

This is the 28th year of the celebration, said Tricia Yamasita, event coordinator for Kauai Hospice.

“It started with a group of volunteers who thought of the event as a way to expose people to Hospice and raise money,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to meet people and gather. I’m excited to celebrate it.”

The Kauai Hospice annual Independence Day Friendraiser kicks off at 4 p.m. and goes until 9:30 p.m. It will feature live music by performers such as Kapena and Shar Carillo.

There will also be a fun zone, complete with bounce units, water slides, zip line, face painting and more.

This year, the event will be using cash, not tokens.

“Historically, people would purchase tokens, and use the tokens to make purchases for food and to participate in games. This year, we have moved to cash,” Yamashita said. “People will no longer have to go through the action of getting tokens. Instead they can go straight to vendors.”

That change was made to accommodate food trucks, which don’t accept the tokens, she said.

“We wanted a more seamless experience so we’re trying it out,” she said.

Running a booth

Misha Taylor, owner of Aloha Aina Juice Cafe, is planning on spending her Fourth of July at Vidinha Stadium, dishing out acai bowls.

“This is the first time we’ll have a booth at an event,” she said. “We’re bringing acai bowls, pre-made, so all we have to do is put the toppings on it. We’re using strawberries, blueberries and bananas, so it’ll be red, white and blue.”

Taylor has never been to the Lihue celebration.

“We’re going to bring the kids. It’ll be fun to see everyone,” she said. “I heard they have an awesome fireworks show.”

Advance ticket sales are $10 for adults, $6 for children aged 6 to 12, and free for keiki 5 and under. Tickets can be found at all Times/Big Save locations and Kauai Hospice.

At the gate, tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children. Yamasita said between 6,000 and 7,000 people are expected to flock to the stadium.

But it’s not the only event going on to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Westside celebrations

On the Westside, Pacific Missile Range Facility and the nonprofit group E Ola Mau Na Leo O Kekaha are hosting free events.

On Monday, PMRF will hold its annual Freedom Fest, which includes live entertainment courtesy of Sammy Johnson, fireworks, games, bounce houses and an art mural.

Festivities begin at 5 p.m., with fireworks blasting off at 9 p.m. Monday.

“This is our Super Bowl,” said Crystal Copper, event coordinator for PMRF. “There are so many moving parts and everyone is a well-oiled machine. We want to give best events we can in a safe manner.”

This is the 20th year PMRF has been hosting the event.

“It’s really nice to have general public come to the military base,” Copper said. “We want to do that. We want to say ‘have a good time and celebrate.’”

She expects 7,000 people to attend the event.

Copper said PMRF likes to host the celebration on a different day than other events on the island.

“We don’t like to conflict or compete with other events,” she said.

Also on the Westside, the public is invited to attend a Tuesday celebration at the Kekaha Faye Ballpark.

“Our event, the Kekaha Fourth of July Celebration, started in early 1960s, initially with Kekaha Community Association, which was made up of people from the plantation community,” said Darlene Muraoka, co-chair of E Ola Mau Na Leo O Kekaha, the group in charge of planning the event.

After taking a break in the 1980s, the celebration was revived in the early 2000s, she said.

“It’s to perpetuate our plantation heritage and different cultures that came together,” she said.

The celebration runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It features a free waterslide, live entertainment by the band Still Watah, watermelon and ice cream eating contests, cultural activities, arts and crafts, game booths and fireworks.

“In the past, Kekaha was the place, but economy died when the mill closed, and people had to move away,” Muraoka said. “This is a way we can pay tribute and remember those who built the town up.”

About 2,000 people are expected to come to the park, but that number doesn’t include those who line up on the beaches and side roads to watch.

“We like to tell people to head west,” she said. “It’s something different. Watch sunset and remember the good old days. It’s good food, good music, and there’s lots of things for family.”

Fireworks begin at 9 p.m.

Honoring veterans

Also on the Fourth of July, the Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting a Kauai Veterans Council Veterans Roundup, which caters toward homeless veterans, said Gloria Rohlfs, public affairs officer.

“We want them to get to know what benefits they are entitled to,” she said. “It promotes health care, ensuring veterans are informed by latest and greatest out there.”

The free event starts at 9 a.m and goes until 3 p.m. at Kauai Veterans Center.

“It’s about honoring our veterans on Kauai especially. We have such a wonderful community here,” she said. “So it’s fitting to take a moment to honor and remember our veterans on Fourth of July.”

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