I love my little town on the Big Island. Honoka‘a (population 2000) is known for a couple of things: the Peace Parade, our Honoka‘a People’s Theatre, and Western Week. Last year I was so busy with planning and executing my 60th birthday party that I missed Western Week. So I’ve been looking forward to it for a whole year.
When most people hear the word Hawaii, they think of beaches. But on the Big Island, we have a rich ranching culture. Traveling west from Honoka’a along the highway that rings the island, I see many herd of cattle and small groups of horses. Western Week is an opportunity to celebrate that old Paniolo culture.
It starts with the anticipation of the event: posters dot storefronts with announcements for the parade, the block party, the three days of rodeo in our arena, and the country band at the Honokaa People’s Theatre – y’all come and dance. I’ve been hearing about the saloon girl and cowboy costume contest from the first day I saw this town. My real estate agent, Stacy, was egging me on to participate before I even bought a house.
I love getting involved in things. There’s no point in going to something and then sitting on the sidelines. So I’ve had this vision of myself dressing up as a saloon girl and vying for the prize of best dressed. I even have a Renaissance costume that I can rearrange for the event. But alas, I didn’t have cowboy boots. So I had pretty much written off that event.
Then Tuesday last week, the girls and I were at St. James Thrift Shop to volunteer for the summer. The girls recognized it as a way to build their resumes for an eventual paying job. I saw it as a way to continue to connect with them over shared experiences, and a way to keep on top of the thrift shop’s best inventory as it came in. After we filled out our applications, we wandered around the shop. I stopped dead in my tracks: there on the top shelf of the shoe section was a pair of dusty rose suede stiletto boots – drop dead fun. I rushed over and grabbed them off the shelf – would they fit? I have such big feet. But they slipped on just like Cinderella’s slipper…with a little tugging and pulling. Okay, maybe it was more like the step-sisters putting on Cinderella’s slippers. Nonetheless, I got them on.
But could I stand up? Not really. I hadn’t worn any kind of heels for over two decades, and I never wore stilettos. Since I’ve moved here, I only wear sandals. I wobbled around on those stilettos like a newbie on a pair of stilts. Jade gave me a worried look and reached out her arm to steady me, but Faye said “Go for it, Mom!” The good thing is that they were so tight that they held my ankles straight, mostly. And they were only $4! So I bought them…after I worked them off my feet.
Now I was committed to the saloon girl contest. I had asked the Universe and it sent me the boots. Why didn’t I ask for fame or fortune? But wait ‒ winning that contest would bring me both!
The day of the parade and contest came but Dianne called to bail out of going with me. I hesitated about going by myself, but I could hear the amplified announcer just a block away, calling me to the parade. So I headed over to Mamane Street. A big crowd spread itself along the street in family clusters sporting beach chairs and cool drinks. I could see the “jail” just down the street, and vendors beginning to set up food and handiwork stalls, face painting, a tiny train for the keiki to ride, even a mechanical bull!
Just then Jeanne came along, and she urged me to join her, Sandy and Kristan further up the street. Why not?
The parade was a reflection of small town America. Of course we saw horses. We saw our Council Woman for District 1, Valerie riding alongside Mayor Billy. That’s a good sign – we need a good chunk of the County’s budget this year for sidewalks, high speed Internet, and public restrooms. She can chat with the Mayor as they ride.
We saw families riding together that represented four generations of ranchers. We even saw the horse that played the black stallion in Hildago! Imagine, we have a horse movie star right here on island!
Each horse grouping was accompanied by its own pooper-scooper brigade. Good thing as walking groups often followed the horses.
We saw people representing the Honoka‘a Business Association marching. This organization is our very own “Chamber of Commerce.” They sponsored this event and push for many other good things for our community.
Niele, of angora rabbit fame, and her husband rode down Mamane in a sporty little red coupe. Her favorite rabbit rode on the back, and dyed wool draped the car’s front. Other historic cars joined in at the end of the parade, but Niele had a prime spot midway in the line-up.
For me one of the highlights was seeing our very own Deacon Larry from Annunciation Church in Waimea walking the parade with his grandson. He was outfitted with the traditional cowboy boots and hat, but also wore chaps and a gun in his holster. I wasn’t sure that was even legal, but the Deacon wouldn’t do anything wrong. This is one cool dude. He invites the Confirmation Class at church up to his ranch for a weekend of getting back to nature every year, which includes communing with his donkeys.
They were advertising his soon-to-be-opened restaurant, Grandma’s Kitchen, serving Portuguese home cooking, in Honoka‘a. We are all thrilled. It will be nice to have another restaurant in town. I cornered him at Church on Sunday to request that they serve malts. A Wisconsin girl just can’t get enough malts.
A contingent from the Honoka‘a Hongwanji Buddhist Temple honored us with a bon dance, followed by a truck carrying the equipment for their music. I’m sure these sweet ladies and gentlemen much appreciated the horse pooper scoopers.
The girls’ softball team rode in a truck. We even had a couple of floats. The kids in the audience loved the miniature horses and the miniature donkey. His handler walked him to the sidelines to visit with the keiki who enjoyed petting the patient animal.
It was a sweet parade, and didn’t last more than 45 minutes. When the fire truck pulled up the rear, Kristan and Sandy invited us to share a beer and shoot the breeze for a while. We stepped inside Sandy’s office and talked for about an hour, enjoying one of our Island’s local brews. By the time we finished and walked down to the block-party, we found that the saloon girl and cowboy costume judging was already done. Rats! Oh well, I wasn’t going to be stable on the stilettos anyway after one of those beers. I’m going to have to practice for next year.
We did get to enjoy the fiddlin’ and banjo contest. We sat down on benches set up in the middle of the street and enjoyed the music. Since there were only three contestants, everyone won a prize. The last guy to entertain us won first place for his sizzling banjo playing, but should have won an additional prize for his thick black and gray beard!
Meanwhile, I saw and chatted with Ann from Water Aerobics, Deacon (not to be confused with Deacon Larry) from Third Thursday Thrive, and other folk I knew. Turns out it was silly of me to worry about going to the event alone. I know more people than I realize. Soon the band started up, a duo called Silver Spurs. People in cowboy hats and boots clapped in rhythm to the music. Couples glided out to the open spot in front of the band and began the two-step. Little kids danced too. Even a gentle rain didn’t stop the band or the dancers.
Meanwhile I found something else I plan to try next year – mechanical bull riding. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Unfortunately I was wearing a dress and couldn’t attempt it this year. But it didn’t look that bad. No one I saw riding it fell off. The padding looks real soft.
And the boots? I hope they will last until next year. The humidity and mold usually ruins leather. That would be a shame. I just found the perfect boots, when my beer drinking got in the way of my chance for fame and fortune, and the mold could do them in by next year.
Hmm. There’s country song in there somewhere. Yee-Hah!
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