Let there be ‘Lights’

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kauai High School students Jenna Takata and Charlene Tan dress up the Hokulea tree Monday afternoon in the lobby of the Historic County Building in Lihue.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Rianna Chang, a fourth-grade student, helps fluff and fold Christmas trees in the lobby of the Historic County Building in Lihue.

LIHUE — Charlene Tan, a junior at Kauai High School, is excited about the opening of the Festival of Lights on Friday night.

“I’ve been volunteering for three years,” said Tan, representing the Japanese Club and the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism. “This is the first year we were allowed to do the inside work — where they prepare and create items for the Festival of Lights. And, we’ll still be here as docents.”

The countdown for the Festival of Lights will be handled by Santa Claus following the opening performance of the Kauai Chorale at 6 p.m.

“Things were literally wet and wild Sunday,” said Elizabeth Freeman of the Festival of Lights. “We had to move everything from the Santa’s Workshop in the Piikoi Building to the lobby of the Historic County Building. Everything had to be done by Sunday evening because Monday is a work day.”

The Festival of Lights includes the lighting of the trees on the lawn of the Historic County Building, and the expansive light show highlighting the collection of the late Josie Chansky enhanced with the addition of more contemporary subjects.

“This year, the festival celebrates the worldwide journey of the Hokulea,” Freeman said. “We’ve had many hands working on creating the special tree utilizing letters cut from plastic bottles, canoes fashioned from African tulip seed pods and paper plates, and all put together with bears and the creativity of students from Kapaa and Kauai high schools.”

Following the opening, the Festival of Lights will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Christmas. The lights will be on for one final run, Dec. 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

During the time doors are open, visitors are greeted by “elves” who share aloha and candy canes before passing guests on to docents who bring the displays alive with details and stories of their creation.

“I’ll be here,” said Jenna Takata, a Kauai High School student. “I wasn’t that involved last year when I first started volunteering. But it’s different this year.”

Families can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, who promise to be on hand each night the Festival of Lights is open.

“This is really something,” said Kauai Council Chair Mel Rapozo, who got a sneak preview following a meeting with Council Services staff Monday. “Thank you, Elizabeth, and all the volunteers who make this work.”

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