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Aloha spirit of parade flourishes even as number of floats sinks

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    Chrysanne Fontanilla of Moanalua High School was among the participants in yesterday's 64th Annual Aloha Festivals Floral Parade. The theme: "Mele Ailana: Celebrate Island Music."
    Dancers from the Keali'ika'apunihonua Ke'ena A'o Hula Halau crowded the float that won the Governor's Award, given to the second-best float in the parade.
    "Mele Ailana: Celebrate Island Music" was the theme of yesterday's 64th annual Aloha Festivals Floral Parade. Hula dancer Kahea Lagasaca helped lead the way for Waianae High School's marching band.

Fewer floats rolled through Waikiki yesterday in the 64th annual Aloha Festivals Floral Parade, but there was still plenty of color and aloha to go around.

The good cheer was certainly evident among the 25 members of Leimomi Ho’s Keali’ika’apunihonua Ke’ena A’o Hula Halau, who continued dancing on their float even after they had reached the Waikiki Shell at the end of the 3 1/2-mile route from Ala Moana Park.

Ho said she chose the island of Kauai, where she was born, as the theme for her halau’s float this year. Halau members wore purple orchid lei that matched their violet-colored muumuu to honor the Garden Island’s official color, Ho said. As for the float, "we wanted to keep it green because the island is so green," she said.

Monstera, ti, croton, palm and bromeliad leaves adorned the sides of the Honolulu Freight Co. lowboy truck.

"We just asked our students to bring in whatever they had in their back yards," said student Ka’uhana Aiu, who designed the float.

The truck bed itself was also simple and functional, with wooden benches lining the sides of a stage with a white-cloth floor.

The halau’s float took the Governor’s Award, second place in the float category.

Hawaiian Airlines employees put together a Hokule’a-themed entry in honor of its two new Airbus planes, which are named Hokule’a and Makali’i after the navigational stars and the Polynesian Voyaging Society canoes.

The float, which won the festival’s first-place Grand Sweepstakes Award, featured a replica of the Hokule’a with papier-mache dolphins and flying fish accompanying it along waves made of purple statis and iris and white orchids.

"Hard to find blue flowers (to represent) the ocean," she said. Dried banana, ti and lauhala leaves were also used.

About 40 people were involved with the float, including a trio of musicians.

The vehicle itself is a one-time airplane wash truck that had its top sawed off.

Employees and family members began construction on the float three weeks ago and worked until 5:30 a.m. yesterday before going home for a few hours to get ready for the parade itself.

The number of floats varies from year to year, Nakanelua said. Three years ago, there were only about three floats, and there were about 13 to 15 floats the last two years. This year there were five.

"There’s a lot of work that goes into it, and many people are intimidated," she said. Most of the people who construct Hawaiian’s floats are mechanics.

"They’re not artists, but they apply what they know as a skill. Everybody’s got a skill."

For Ho, it’s a labor of love.

"It’s tradition," she said, noting that at one time each of the islands had not just a pa’u team but a float as well. "I don’t know. I guess times are hard."

Parade chairman Kimo Keawe said a shortage of affordable or free flatbed trucks was a key reason for this year’s decline. Another was a shortage of available flowers and leaves, he said.

"But a lot of them are saying they’re preparing for next year," he said. "Everybody’s trying to recover from the recession."

Parade-goers said that while they could tell there were fewer floats, they appreciated the work that went into those that did appear.

Waialua teacher Aimee Kumura said she wasn’t surprised the Hawaiian entry won first place. "I loved all the flowers, and it was very well put together," she said.

Terry DaLuz of New Bedford, Mass., said she didn’t mind fewer floats.

"I don’t like a long, long parade anyway," she said.

Several parade watchers noted that even without a multitude of floats, they were impressed by the floral arrangements and costumes that adorned the pa’u riders and their horses.


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