Folks who mosey around Honokaa town this month better keep an eye out for “Sheriff” Eddie Castillo. During Honokaa Western Week, Castillo and his crew will be roving the streets to round up anyone who doesn’t spring the three bucks for this year’s commemorative HWW button. Violators will be jailed and stuck in the pokey until they buy a button, or friends bail them out.
Sheriff’s duties are just part of the fun, as Honokaa Western Week spurs on a full schedule of paniolo-style celebrations, May 17-26. And, with the exception of two years, Castillo, whose father ran Castillo Music Store in town, has been part of every HWW since it started in the 1940’s—as a paniolo, a musician and sheriff.
“We had a hitching post in front of the Credit Union,” said Castillo, “with a big posse, eight or nine horses.” Castillo said that HWW was a project of newly formed Honokaa Business Association, created as a way to bring the community together for some fun while the Hawaii Saddle Club Rodeo was happening.
“We just called it ‘Rodeo Days,’” said Marlene Hapai, owner of the Andrade Building. “My grandmother was a business woman in Honokaa in good and lean times, and rodeo time in Honokaa was like Christmas for everybody else.”
Cowboys who rode into town for the Hawaii Saddle Club Rodeo would stay at the Andrade Hotel, sometimes as many as eight or nine in one tiny room. Jill Andrade Mattos, of Hawaii Beef Producers, said she remembered her grandmother cooking soup in the mornings when cowboys stayed over, waiting for them to come rolling down the stairs after a night of whooping it up.
On Monday, May 19, everyone will remember Jill and Marlene’s grandmother, when the refurbished rodeo arena is rededicated as the “Honoka‘a Rose Andrade Correia Arena.” The new name pays tribute to the family matriarch and benefactor who donated her land to the County of Hawaii in support of Hawaii Saddle Club and Hawaii’s paniolo. Mayor Billy Kenoi, Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter and other dignitaries will be there to help reopen the arena, which features new covered bleachers, restrooms, a concession stand and other improvements.
“This was her mother’s property,” Hapai said. “And she knew by giving the land for the arena, that it would ensure, in perpetuity, that Honokaa would always have a rodeo.”
Later in the week, on Thursday, May 22, 5-8 p.m., all are welcome to join in the Andrade Building’s 90th birthday celebration, which will feature photos from the past, memories from community storytellers, and music by at least two of the original “Country Lads” and friends. Refreshments for sale include cool sarsaparilla and “hot li’l doggies,” and collectible 90th Anniversary mugs and stadium cups will be available as well.
Marlene Hapai and her team are working hard to lovingly recreate some of the nostalgia and high spirits that made the Andrade Hotel, later a cafe and bar, so special. As they prepare to celebrate the Andrade Building’s 90th Anniversary during HWW, Hapai has found of the original leather-covered barstools and other memorabilia from the Ohia Lanai.
And royalty takes the stage, when the Hawaii Saddle Club Rodeo Queens are crowned. Something special this year, their coronation will be assisted by the reigning “Miss Rodeo Colorado,” Rhianna Russell, who learned about the Hawaii Saddle Club Rodeo online and wanted to attend.
As part of her responsibilities, Miss Rodeo Colorado travels to rodeos and events in the mountain states to represent Western heritage and the sportsmanship, character and humane treatment of animals in the sport of rodeo. Russell will ride in the Paniolo Parade at 4 p.m., along with the rodeo queens.
Grand Marshal of the parade, in memoriam, will be Marion Adrian De Luz, longtime community supporter and member of the Hawaii Saddle Club since the 1950s.
“We are recognizing her because of the work she did,” said Mattos. “And her children, as business people, have taken what they learned from their mother and father, that support of community. She embedded that in them.”
Members of the De Luz family will lead a riderless horse in the parade in her honor.
Following the parade, Mamane Street turns into the block party of the year, with music and dancing in the streets, vendors, games, and the legendary “Saloon Girls” Contest. Dressed in western “dance hall” costume, ladies of all ages perform for enthusiastic cowboys onstage in what will be a hilariously entertaining and memorable show. New this year, “Cowboys Got Talent,” gives males a chance to turn the tables and compete for accolades and applause, as well as cash prizes. Singers, dancers and entertainers urged to enter by May 9 (see below). There are no entry fees.
Commemorative HWW buttons are available now at businesses throughout Honokaa town for only $3, and buttons automatically enter purchasers in the block party lucky number drawing. They are not required for admission to events, however, participants are forewarned that anyone without a button may be subject to arrest by Sheriff Castillo and his posse.
Honokaa Western Week is a volunteer-driven project of the Honokaa Business Association, The Hamakua Farm Bureau and the Hamakua Lion’s Club celebrating Hamakua’s paniolo heritage and unique cultural blend. Sponsors include Hawaii Tourism Authority, County of Hawaii CPEP, Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, Kamehameha Schools, Ramos Ranch, Big Island Toyota, DeLuz Trucking, Andrade Building, Hapai Enterprises, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union and many other generous supporters. For more information, follow Honokaa Western Week on Facebook.