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Thursday, October 30, 2014         

HAWAII'S BACKYARD


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Hilo hosts Black & White Night

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

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Parades down Waianuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue, potluck picnics at Wailoa River State Park, matinees at the Palace Theater, summer fun programs at the old Cow Palace, an old warehouse-turned-recreation center-- whenever Alice Moon talks about "small-kid time" in Hilo, the rush of memories brings a big smile to her face.

"My family lived in a house near the sea that was surrounded by jungle," recalled the executive director of the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association. "I could walk to the beach. My friends and I played in the trees, explored lava tubes, built forts out of bagasse, climbed over rocky coastline cliffs and swam in spring-fed ocean ponds. We loved being outdoors!"

Back then, Moon's favorite treats included colored popcorn at Kress, cheesecake at Woolworth's, cone sushi at Al's Corner and ice shave at Itsu's Fishing Supplies, which is still in business. "Everyone in Hilo calls it ice shave, not shave ice," Moon said. "I don't know why. It's just a Hilo thing."

BLACK & WHITE NIGHT

» Where: Downtown Hilo

» When: 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 5

» Admission: Free. Food and beverages will be available for purchase at more than 50 locations. Stop by Dreams of Paradise Gallery and say "happy birthday" to owner Suzan Starr, who will be serving free cake to celebrate the occasion.

» Phone: 935-8850

» E-mail: alice@downtownhilo.com

» Website: www.downtownhilo.com

» Notes: Commemorative buttons can be purchased for $5 at the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association's office, 329 Kamehameha Ave., beginning Friday. During the event, those wearing buttons will have VIP seating area at Grand Central Station and during the After-Party Dance Party featuring Le Hot Club de Hilo playing gypsy jazz beginning at 9:30 p.m. Throughout the holiday season, dozens of Hilo businesses will be offering discounts to shoppers wearing buttons.

» Parking: Except for a few meters next to the post office, parking is always free in downtown Hilo. There are two-hour and eight-hour zones, but there's no time limit after 4 p.m. Best parking spot: the mauka soccer fields off Kamehameha Avenue, an easy walk to Grand Central Station.

 

That's just one of many endearing traits about Hilo. It may be the Big Island's capital, but in many ways it's still the sleepy little coastal town Moon remembers from her childhood. Measuring just six blocks by four blocks, Hilo's downtown district primarily comprises buildings dating to the early 1900s that miraculously survived devastating tsunamis in 1946 and 1960.

After those tragedies, many businesses moved mauka to higher ground. When the Big Island's sugar plantations shut down in the 1980s and 1990s, downtown Hilo lost its primary customer base and essentially became a ghost town. Today the area is being revitalized with the introduction of great restaurants, cool boutiques and galleries, one of the best farmers' markets in Hawaii and events such as Black & White Night, which is expected to draw 15,000 people to its 10th-anniversary celebration in a few weeks.

According to Moon, most people associate formal events with the colors black and white, so Black & White Night has been planned as an upscale street party. Put on your finest black-and-white attire and vie for top honors in the "Best Dressed Contest." Cash prizes will be awarded in three categories: children through age 17, adults 18 years and older, and couples/groups.

More than 80 shops and restaurants will be offering specials, refreshments and appearances by authors and artists. Instead of one main stage, entertainment will be presented all over town.

"Black & White Night will be one big strolling party," Moon said. "Something will be happening on every block, around every corner."

At Grand Central Station, on Ponahawai Street between Kamehameha Avenue and Kilauea Avenue, you can pick up maps that list businesses participating in the event's treasure hunt.

"When people visit each business, their map will be stamped," Moon said. "All fully stamped maps will be entered in a drawing for prizes at Grand Central Station at the end of the evening. We've gathered a fantastic selection of prizes, including jewelry, artwork, books and gift certificates from stores and restaurants."

Aloha Ambassadors will be on hand to kokua. Dressed in gowns and tuxedos, these students from Hilo High School's Key Club and Boy Scouts from Troop 78 will be distributing maps, providing directions and serving as crossing guards.

"There's always a lot going on during Black & White Night, yet it's still indicative of quaint, charming little Hilo," Moon said. "It's a great mix of high energy and laid-back lifestyle. For local people it's a chance to dress up, enjoy free live music, meet old friends and make new ones. Visitors enjoy mingling with kamaaina, experiencing the 'real Hawaii' and participating in an event where they're welcomed with genuine aloha, as part of Hilo's ohana."

 

Join 'One Wall at a Time' and help create 'moving mural'

Sponsored by the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association and the East Hawaii Cultural Center, the "One Wall at a Time" program aims to beautify Hilo with murals painted on unsightly walls. On Black & White Night, artist Kathleen Kam will lead 14 students to six locations in town to unveil a "moving mural."

By then each student will have finished painting a section of a 6-by-21-foot mural with an abstract floral theme. In their "performance art" presentations — a first for Hilo — each artist will hold their section and stand in the proper place to form the complete mural, much like fitting together pieces of a puzzle. The unique work of art will be on view at each location for about 10 minutes.

Are you interested in participating? Sign up for the Mural Movement and Installation workshop that Kam will be teaching at EHCC, 141 Kalakaua St., on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $45 for members of EHCC and $50 for nonmembers. Participants must be available for a follow-up session on Nov. 1 and a rehearsal on Nov. 3. Both meetings will run from 4 to 8 p.m. at the center.

If more than 14 students sign up, a larger mural will be created. For more information or to register, call 961-5711.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.






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