Festival of Lights goes on Thanksgiving night

  • Wyatt Taubman, Elizabeth Freeman, Jackie Brady

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Members of the Kaua‘i Fire Department string lights onto the monkeypod tree using a Genie lift provided by Service Rentals & Supplies.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Teili Fonua takes a break from stringing lights onto the trees on the lawn of the Historic County Building. Fonua, whose father Manu Fonua heads the light stringing, grew up with the 25-year-old tradition.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Finley Geis and Mary Gauba of Princeville create ornaments using recycled CDs in Santa’s Workshop in Lihu‘e.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Festival of Lights volunteer Carol Conley affixes an ornament to the new donated tree that will be at the Festival of Lights at the Historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihu‘e.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Elizabeth Freeman of the Festival of Lights fits Santa and friends into a royal palm sheath.

LIHU‘E — Santa is getting a new ride during the 25th annual Festival of Lights, said Elizabeth Freeman of the Festival of Lights.

This year, the Festival of Lights will light up on Thanksgiving night to allow as many people as possible to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere of the hundreds of sparkling lights inside and outside the Historic County Building on Rice Street.

Like last year, when COVID-19 rules imposed restrictions on crowd size and social distancing, the light show was pushed ahead to Thanksgiving to allow people to enjoy the free illuminated displays and lawn of the Historic County Building and be in compliance with pandemic rules.

New to the Festival of Lights is Santa’s ride, a new set of decorations created from CDs acquired from a San Francisco warehouse, Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts, and a 9-foot iridescent tree donated by the family of the late Dave Walters.

“We are placing this on the front covered porch of the Historic County Building,” Freeman said. “We will be creating decorations that are weatherproof, like recycled CD ornaments and those out of recycled aluminum cans and recycled plastic water bottles.”

“Santa, and he’s not sitting alone, gets a new ride when I found a royal palm sheath on my way into Santa’s Workshop,” Freeman said. “The sheath will be cleaned up, painted and prettied with ribbon, and it fits Santa perfectly.”

Preparations for the illuminated displays featuring folk-art pieces started this week for the pieces that will be lit from 6 to 11 p.m. through New Year’s Day.

“If it weren’t for the Kaua‘i Fire Department Lihu‘e station, the Festival of Lights would not be possible,” Freeman said. “Along with the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, Hawaiian Telcom, Spectrum, Toolmaster and Service Rentals, their support has made the Historic County Building park a dazzling destination for the community. They are true Kaua‘i heroes.”

Lunches and beverages for the volunteers, including students from Kaua‘i High School’s Hui Ho‘okipa led by advisor Greg Anderson who work at Santa’s Workshop to revitalize trees and decorations and create new items, come from Mark’s Place, Duke’s Canoe Club, Smiley’s Local Grinds, Keoki’s Paradise, Subway Lihue, Po’s Kitchen and the Kaua‘i Beer Company, with PepsiCo donating beverages.

As a special treat, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit the Festival of Lights on the front porch of the Historic County Building from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10, 17 and Christmas Eve.

Freeman is the founder of the Festival of Lights. In 1997 she acquired the Josie Chansky collection from the Kapa‘a Christmas house, and donated it to the County of Kaua‘i.

“The Kapa‘a Christmas house’s (on Kawaihau Road) delightfully lit exterior led one into the interior, where Auntie Josie ‘repurposed’ materials long before the word ‘recycling’ came into use,” Freeman said, recognizing Chansky as a folk artist, or an untrained artist, of the highest order.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.


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