The 53rd Annual Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade

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<p>Santa prepares for the upcoming Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>
<p>Large crowds gathered to wait for the annual Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade to begin, an estimated 8,000 were in attendance last year. (FILE PHOTO)</p>
<p>Volunteers of the Bucket Brigade collect donations for the Big Island Giving Tree before last year’s parade (FILE PHOTO)</p>
<p>Elaborately decorated trucks drive through town during the 51st annual Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>
<p>A float for the Big Island Giving Tree project drives through the parade. (FILE PHOTO)</p>
<p>An inflatable snowman sits atop a float in the Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>
<p>Trucks festively decorated with lights drive through the Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade in 2012. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>
<p>Santa loads gifts in anticipation of the 53rd Annual Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

The Christmas season hasn’t officially arrived until the Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade comes to town. Now in its 53rd year, the event is on Dec. 7, from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m., through downtown Waimea.

For this parade, local trucking companies will be sure to gather — the event is dedicated to Kurt Okada, a well-known and loved Waimea trucker who died in June at 47 years old. Okada entered his semitrailer in the Twilight Parade every year and made sure his decorations were unique, intricate and entertaining.

“There is probably going to be more trucks this year because of Kurt,” said parade co-chairwoman Kalae Kawamura. “For his memorial service there were 86 trucks (as escorts, with more than 500 people attending his funeral).”

Kawamura said they dedicated the parade to Okada because he was such an important part of the community.

“He always went above and beyond and helped everybody,” Kawamura said of Okada. “If you needed his help for something, he was there and wouldn’t even ask questions.”

To mark the occasion, she had 450 safety green and orange shirts made in honor of Okada that friends, family and coworkers will wear at the parade.

In addition to the decorated semitrailers, there are 37 other entries, with still more coming in, from local businesses, schools and churches that have been working for weeks to get their entries prepared.

“A big draw is the fact that we are a community that comes together,” said co-chairwoman Lani Olsen-Chong.

Get there early

About a dozen North Hawaii kupuna are this year’s grand marshals. They will ride together in two open vehicles donated by ATV Outfitters’ Kohala Ditch Adventures.

The Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade will start in front of New Hope Christian Fellowship at the beginning of Church Row. It will follow Mamalahoa Highway to Lindsey Road and continue to the Waimea Park.

With a large crowd expected, it makes sense to arrive early and eat, enjoy the daylong entertainment and shop. On parade night - expect traffic delays. Only emergency vehicles will be able to pass through town center. Mamalahoa Highway and portions of Lindsey Road will be blocked until after the parade, which usually takes about an hour.

There are eight narrator stations along the parade route. Food stands will also be available, in addition to food being served by local restaurants and stores. Food booths will include: saimin and cocoa at Spencer House, beef tacos and water in front of Bank of Hawaii, steak and cheese sandwiches and corn dogs at Waimea Community Education building, box lunches at the Shell Station and burgers, hot dogs and drinks at Parker School. For restrooms, Big Island Portables is donating six luas that will be set up along the parade route.

‘Lucky Seven’ theme

Olsen-Chong said that this year’s theme, “Lucky Seven,” came from the Dec. 7 date. She said that participants have developed innovative floats to the theme.

“For Hale O Ho’ola Hamakua, residents and staff, their theme is ‘Seven Shrimp a Swimmin’,’” Olsen-Chong said. “HPA will have ‘Seven Gifts of Aloha.’ I told them to use their imagination and that is what they are doing.”

According to Olsen-Chong, there will even be a visit from Herbie the Lovebug, whose number is 53, coincidently marking the parade’s 53rd year. This year, the new Longs Drugs staff will participate and also staff from Mauna Kea Resort.

“We would welcome participation from the other hotels,” she said.

Olsen-Chong said that members of her family have been helping with the event since she took it over. In addition to her husband, Al, four daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren, Olsen-Chong said she has a large group of volunteers that have been helping for many years – she even has a group of parade monitors that come from Kohala to help.

Cleaning up around you

After the parade, members of Mana Christian Ohana have volunteered to help pick up rubbish this year for the first time. The County of Hawaii has donated orange highway clean up rubbish bags – each announcer’s station will have a rubbish bag for trash so everyone can help clean up.

“If you see it you own it,” said Olsen-Chong. “If everybody does that, it would make our streets look a lot better in the morning.”

Kawamura and Olsen-Chong said that as soon as the parade ends, they start preparing for the next year’s event.

“We plan and get everything together, and we pretty much have it under control after all these years and we can do it in our sleep,” Kawamura said. “This week, though, we run on no sleep. “

Why do they and their families devote countless hours of their time in the parade’s preparation and execution?

“For the joy that it brings to the community,” Olsen-Chong said. “It is one of the things that I do because I want to do it and to see the satisfaction and joy it brings not only to community, but also to people from the entire island.”

Olsen-Chong said visitors even fly in from neighbor islands for the event, and she has met people from California in trucking that came just to attend the parade.

For more parade information, visit

There is no charge for the parade, but all are encouraged to contribute to the “Big Island Giving Tree” - an all-volunteer community project that makes sure working families and seniors had a good holiday.

With the “Lucky 7 ” theme, parade goers are encouraged to donate seven necessities - anything from baby diapers and personal hygiene products, to rice and non-perishable foods, especially proteins such as Spam and tuna. Also most welcome are gift cards and Save-a-Tape receipts from KTA and Foodland and gift certificates redeemable at local farmers markets, gas stations and other local businesses, including Costco.

To Adopt-a-Family or to Adopt-a-Child for Christmas, donors can visit the “Big Island Giving Tree” store in Parker Ranch Center from now until Dec. 20. Applicants and recommendations are welcome, now through Dec.11. All recipients will be screened, and all donations will stay on this island. For an online application, visit at the “2013 Christmas Parade” tab at the top, or call Rhonda Bell at 880-1984 or Nancy Carr Smith at 896-2239 no later than Dec. 11.