LIHUE — Kieley Espiritu’s birthday was on Dec. 28.
The Kauai High School freshman took to the arena of the Holiday Bowl in San Diego like any other day.
“It wasn’t anything special,” Espiritu said. “I just went and played with the other people in the Kauai All Island Band.”
The performance in the parade of the Holiday Bowl earned the KAIB top honors in the category over Lahainaluna High School from Maui, and Basha Band from Arizona.
The group of 71 students returned home with their hardware Tuesday night before a fanfare of parents, including Kieley’s mother and little brother, and supporters, unveiling a “KAIB Rocks!” banner that greeted deplaning passengers at the Lihue Airport.
Students range from seventh grade through some college.
“Kevin (Toma) is my cousin,” said Kauai County Council member Derek Kawakami. “The group did great, and I had to come to congratulate him.”
Led by Sarah Tochiki and her crew of four adult leaders including Toma, Mike Odo, and Dante Dolor, the KAIF also earned third place in the Holiday Bowl field competition on Dec. 27. Top winner in the field competition belonged to Basha with Lahainaluna getting the nod for second place.
“You should have been there,” said Gerald Rapozo, a parent who traveled with the group. “When they took the field and performed ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ the crowd went off. It was amazing.”
Tochiki said the credit goes to students, parents, and community support.
“We’ve had groups travel to participate in parades and other events, before,” Toma said. “But I think this is the first time a band has actually brought home something.”
Tochiki said the band was amazing.
“They made Kauai proud, people kept saying. We had more than a hundred sponsors, and lots and lots of fundraisers. The kids worked hard — at all the practices, even during the breaks, and on the field.”
With hardware in hand, Tochiki, Toma and the students return to classes Monday.