Kōloa Kicks Off 34th Plantation Days
Expect food, fun, entertainment and a good old-fashioned rodeo when Kōloa Plantation Days heads to town July 19-28.
The 34th annual Kōloa Plantation Days gets underway in just a few days with the ever-famous Friday Night Rodeo Bash, slated for 4:30 p.m. July 19 at CJM Stables. The bash, in turn, kicks off the 20th annual Plantation Days Rodeo, which features three full days of Hawaiian-style rodeo action and runs July 19-21.
Kōloa Plantation Days began in 1985 as a 150-year celebration of the founding of Old Kōloa Sugar Mill, the first successful one in the state. It just so happened that around this same time, Joyce Miranda and her husband Jimmy were starting their own project, CJM Country Stables — also in Kōloa.
Jimmy recalls pulling up to the land for the first time and not even being able to see the ocean because of the massive boulders and overgrown landscape. Now, sitting high atop his horse and cowboy hat firmly in place, he looks out to a clear view of the lush Māhā’ulepū coastline.
“I just knew the ocean was somewhere around here,” he says with a laugh.
As her husband recalls the early days of their stables, Joyce shares her memories from that same year, when she attended the inaugural Kōloa Plantation Days celebration with her young son, Russell.
“It was held next to the post office where all of the great big trees used to be, and they had the Royal Hawaiian Band,” she says. “That was one of my fondest memories of this whole community, under the banyan trees.”
The following year, Joyce was invited to be a part of the Kōloa Plantation Days committee and began helping with the parade. After some years, she thought of adding a new element to the event, perhaps a little Sunday rodeo.
“I put together a little rodeo that we called the ‘ranch rodeo,’ and it was mainly the ranch community that was involved,” she says. “At the very beginning there were maybe 50 people around and now it’s huge! There’s hundreds of people that come out for the rodeo. It’s really a time of families coming together.” says Joyce, whose daughter Marti now serves alongside her as co-chairwoman of the Plantation Days Rodeo.
This year’s rodeo theme is “Year of the Paniolo,” which the entire Kōloa Plantation Days Celebration has adopted as well.
“All the more, the 20th anniversary (of the rodeo) has become even more special” says Joyce.
Kōloa Plantation Days planning committee chairwoman and event coordinator Melissa McFerrin War-rack explains, “The paniolo culture is all around us, and this year’s theme reminds us that this is a rural community. When you see some of the old photographs with the sugar mill, (you see) how it’s a rural community and it still is today.”
“Everyone can associate with, and everyone can relate with their family, their friends and the paniolo heritage,” adds Joyce. “There is still a great deal of people on Kaua‘i that count on going to Waimea, up the valleys and hunting pig on the weekends to bring the meat home for the family, so it’s definitely still a culture here.”
In honor of this year’s theme, Eddie Taniguchi Jr. from Waimea Valley will serve as grand marshal of the Kōloa Plantation Days Parade. Taniguchi was grand marshal of the rodeo a few years back, and Joyce recalls how the 79-year-old “was on horseback and roping with his grandchildren out here until just a few years ago.”
“(Taniguchi) is the real McCoy, he is the real paniolo on Kaua‘i,” she adds. “He spent his whole life on horseback and was the most comfortable on a horse than he was doing anything else.”
Taniguchi was inducted into Hawai‘i Cattleman’s Council Inc.’s Paniolo Hall of Fame in 2000.
The whole concept of the 20th annual Plantation Days Rodeo is based on the paniolo heritage, which dates back to the Spanish and Mexican vaqueros. In honor of that history, the rodeo’s half-time entertainment on Saturday and Sunday will be Mexican vaquero trick-roper Manny Gonzales, who regularly performs in rodeos throughout California.
For Joyce, it is an especially important and a personal privilege to honor the paniolo heritage.
“I am a cowgirl”, she states. “My grandmother was one of the very first cowgirls in Wyoming. Also, seeing the heritage of Jimmy’s family, who came from Portugal as saddle-makers. Their ranch and their paniolo life on the Big Island was a big part of our lives.”
Joyce, 71, remains a cow-girl at heart, giddy with excitement and anticipation as she looks ahead to the 20th annual Plantation Days Rodeo.
“I think every little boy and girl can associate with a horse,” Joyce adds. “For the families to come out and see the cowgirls riding around the barrels; the crowds cheering; Manny standing up on his horse doing a production that has never been seen; having the bulls bucking good and no one gets hurt and everyone is having fun; having a wild cow milking contest with everybody yelling and screaming from the stands — this is going to be exciting this year!”
The 10-day-long Kōloa Plantation Days celebration concludes July 28. The final weekend’s festivities are highlighted by the Parade and Park Event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at Anne Knudsen Ball Park in Kōloa. This event includes local ethnic foods, all-day entertainment, keiki activities and Kaua‘i’s largest craft show.
For more information on all of the scheduled events, which run July 19-28, visit koloaplantationdays.com.