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Around Hilo Town: Parade enlivens festival atmosphere


  • Cyril Pahinui performing at the Civic center.

  • A steady line of customers in front of the Poi Balls lunch truck.

  • Nose flute.

  • Lomi stick booth.

  • Kathleen Nielsen tests lavosh.

One of the things that seems to stand out for some of us this year is the abundance of yellow and orange ohia lehua blossoms offered in lei, hair adornments and other floral pieces. We’re used to seeing the more common red, but not these. More cultivation is going on, so they’re not as scarce.

Friend Penny Davis reports the reason for the perfect weather for the festival weekend, she believes, is that more of the lehua and other flowers are being picked from backyards and cultivated gardens, rather than Pele’s land. The legend is if you pick the blossoms from the ohia at Volcano, it will rain.

Craft fairs seemed busy this morning, but as vendors asked over and over: "Were you at the parade?"

It became apparent that the onslaught was yet to come. At noon the parade was winding, after two hours, through downtown and there remained a great festival atmosphere.

At the Civic, vendors still had time for in-depth chats with potential customers. The lomi stick folks were demonstrating best use to relieve back knots and how to roll your neck in the crotch of the stick. 

A tattooed fellow, sunglasses pushed up on his forehead and ti leaf lei on adorning bare chest, played a nose flute, the only one we saw during the week.

A pair of gentlemen with a booth of native plants were talking about elevation differences and the importance of promoting all-native landscaping. They had a particularly healthy yellow ohia for sale along with taro and maile, the Hawaii Island kind that has such a full yet gentle scent.

Niihau shells, simply or intricately strung, were getting respectful attention. Most people knew purchase of the shell neck lei was beyond budget ($50,000 regular, on special today for $35,000 for this 12-strand; $12,000 for the tiny shells, five-color.) While it was still pre-parade crowd, the shell vendors were happy to give history and explain style differences.

Cyril Pahinui was entertaining during the late morning at the Civic — always pleasant to hear his sweet voice.

At Sangha Hall craft fair, Zonta Club of Hilo president Kathleen Nielsen was enjoying Hilo-made lavosh. Outside, the line was consistently long at the poi balls truck. Food booths out there were definitely Hilo-style multicultural. Besides local fare, there were Peruvian tamales, spaghetti, French crepes, Thai pumpkin curry and papaya salad, probably others, too.

Downtown, following the parade, the usual Saturday morning Hilo market was horned well into  afternoon. Japanese visitors walked through town, a happy sight as we know how troubled things are in that tsunami-recovery site. There were a number of Japanese visitors at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel craft fair and at Naniloa. These ladies tended to wear flower bedecked hats or neck lei. 

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