Phyllis Kunimura is grand marshal for Koloa Plantation Days parade

KOLOA — While Phyllis Kunimura is no stranger to parades, being the center of attention at one is another story.

“Because my husband was in politics, we did a lot of parades. Parades are not new,” she said. “But being the person they’re focusing on is a little bit different.”

Today, Kunimura will be kicking off the Koloa Plantation Days parade as the grand marshal. The parade starts at 10 a.m. at Koloa School and ends at Anne Knudsen Ballpark.

“It’s a really nice honor,” she said. “Koloa has a great turnout for the parade. People line up all the way from Koloa School to the park and come hours before to put up their tents and chairs.”

Kunimura, a retired teacher from Koloa School and former first lady of Kauai (her husband is the late Mayor Tony Kunimura), had a hand in starting Koloa Plantation Days 30 years ago.

“We started off with just a one-day celebration. It was the Sugar Planter’s Association doing 150-year celebration of sugar in the state of Hawaii. It was so much fun that the community got together and the sugar planters did it a second year,” she said.

As the years went on, the celebration grew.

“We brought in the Poipu Beach Resort Association to work with the Koloa Plantation Days Committee, so it became a working of community and visitor industry, which is kind of special,” she said. “So many things are put on by the community, or sponsored by the visitor industry.”

Kunimura, who has been serving as president of the board for over 30 years, said she’s proud to be a part of something that’s become an important part of Koloa.

“People around the world set their vacation in time to go to it,” she said.

Her favorite part of Koloa Plantation Days is the choices.

“So if you want a historical talk, or games for children,” she said. “Or if you want history about plantation and the mill, or a rodeo — there’s such a variety.”

The Koloa woman owns Kid’s School in Kapaa, which offers preschool and pre-k classes.

“Everybody needs to have a strong foundation to build their life on, their education on to build their future on,” she said.

She likens that to the purpose of Koloa Plantation Days.

“To have people understand their history and foundation. It’s not just a fun event,” she said. “You can learn and have fun. And take pride and pass on family values.”

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