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Aloha, Hilo: People, places and (beautiful) things

  • Locally made, organic dark chocolate at Georgie Fong's pop-up booth at the Hilo Farmers Market food court. The rich bars are 70 percent cacao. Fong says the bar with ginger helps burn calories. Sweet!
  • An assortment of meticulously prepared pastries and baked goods at Moonstruck Patisserie, which is also often recommended for its excellent, slow-brewed coffee.
  • From left: John Rampulla, a Navy "IT1," or information systems technician, and 13-year veteran, Andrew Watson, an "HM3" (hospital corpsman) and 5 1/2 year "lifer"; Quadre Phillips, a boatswain mate 2d, three years in; Terrance Williams, boatswain mate 3d, with 11 years of service. The men said they were part of a small group that was able to leave Pearl Harbor-based destroyer Chung-Hoon on Saturday, to visit Hilo during Merrie Monarch.
  • Cafe Pesto is a haven for good food at the south end of downtown Hilo.
  • Shadi Keehuweolani Faridi models a TAV Wear dress in a collection from Rarotonga at her family's boutique, Hana Hou Hilo. Each dress is hand-block printed and one of a kind. The designs were displayed at a fashion show at the Hilo bandstand on Merrie Monarch's final day.
  • My thrift store find: A Sig Zane aloha shirt! Till next time, Hilo.

It’s been great to tour Hilo and Volcano during Merrie Monarch. I’ve been in the presence of some awesome natural beauty, and I’ve been privileged to witness some of the elegant, extravagant and heroic efforts involved with the dance, hula, that gives Merrie Monarch its reason for being.

The people and places I visited made a big impression, as did the island of Hawaii. As is the case throughout the islands, people are connected closely here. Stop in at Remy’s Plate Lunch, next to the Hilo Farmers Market, and you’ll find that the owner’s daughter, Joy Trapp, is married to Aunty Nona Beamer’s hanai son, Kaliko Trapp. Hula, song and cultural tradition is a big part of the family’s life; so is providing Big Island beef hamburger loco moco and panko-breaded mahimahi fish and chips (hand-cut fries — so good!), served with organic greens.

There’s a certain kind of energy at play on Hawaii — things don’t usually go as expected, yet often that works out for the better. Take, for example, the frequent rain, which may soak your shoes, but also nourishes vibrant greenery. Or the unpredictability of making an online connection, which leads you to look up from your device and meet the smiles of others.

The Navy ran into that Big Island unpredictability on Friday, when waters in Hilo Bay were too shallow to allow Pearl Harbor-based destroyer Chung-Hoon to come to harbor. (Better than running aground!) However, on Saturday, a small group was able to disembark, and I ran into four of them. They were beaming. “We’re happy because we’re off the boat!” said John Rampulla, a Navy information systems technician.

On Saturday, my last day in Hilo, I left myself open to unpredictable finds and encounters. It worked out: I followed a woman in an amazing dress into her mother’s shop, to discover a collection of clothing from Rarotonga, and found a vibrant Sig Zane aloha shirt on sale at the Salvation Army; listened to a grizzled hippie play a decent blues, and heard Iz’ touching version of “Hi’ilawe” blasting from a rusted pickup truck; let Siri guide me to inexpensive gas at the edge of town, and fueled myself with a late-afternoon lunch at fave restaurant Cafe Pesto. (Hallelujah! A Hilo restaurant that doesn’t close down in mid-afternoon!)

Till next time, Hilo.


Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

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