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Long-awaited playground blessed in Honokaa

Students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool push open the gate as the pristine playground beckons at the blessing ceremony on March 25. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool push open the gate as the pristine playground beckons at the blessing ceremony on March 25. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Mayor Billy Kenoi talks about the community effort that went into getting the new Honokaa Playground off the ground. Behind him are Carol Ignacio, Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma, Deacon Larry Ignacio and Hamakua District Councilwoman Valerie Souza Poindexter. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Mayor Billy Kenoi talks about the community effort that went into getting the new Honokaa Playground off the ground. Behind him are Carol Ignacio, Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma, Deacon Larry Ignacio and Hamakua District Councilwoman Valerie Souza Poindexter. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio tapped Luke Joaquin Freitas, a student at Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool, to help him bless the new playground. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio tapped Luke Joaquin Freitas, a student at Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool, to help him bless the new playground. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio offers a final blessing with Councilwoman Valerie Souza Poindexter and Aubrey Summers, County Park projects manager, and teachers and students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio offers a final blessing with Councilwoman Valerie Souza Poindexter and Aubrey Summers, County Park projects manager, and teachers and students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool rush into the brand new playground as Councilwoman Poindexter and Mayor Billy Kenoi barely manage to pull back the maile lei in time. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool rush into the brand new playground as Councilwoman Poindexter and Mayor Billy Kenoi barely manage to pull back the maile lei in time. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Kaile Hinokawa was one of the first students to test one of the slides in the new playground on March 25. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Kaile Hinokawa was one of the first students to test one of the slides in the new playground on March 25. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool in Honokaa perform a song before the new playground blessing on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool in Honokaa perform a song before the new playground blessing on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio leads Luke Joaquin Freitas, a Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool student, in the playground blessing ceremony on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio leads Luke Joaquin Freitas, a Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool student, in the playground blessing ceremony on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio blesses the playground before students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool are the first to use it on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Deacon Larry Ignacio blesses the playground before students from Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool are the first to use it on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
A Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool student goes down the slide on the new playground in Honokaa on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM | NHN)
A Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool student goes down the slide on the new playground in Honokaa on March 25. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM | NHN)

On March 25, students of Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool in Honokaa were the first to officially slide down the slides on the new Honokaa playground constructed next to the Honokaa gym.

During a blessing ceremony attended by Mayor Billy Kenoi, Clayton Homna, County Parks and Recreation director, and County Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, the preschool students danced, sang and raced past the mayor and the councilwoman as they opened the maile lei.

“This is a playground for all of you. We hope you enjoy it and take care of it,” Homna said. “In every community, we are building more playgrounds and this is the first that we are delivering this year, so it is blessing to have this delivered for us.”

Deacon Larry Ignacio blessed the playground with the help of Luke Joaquin Freitas, a Ka Hale O Na Keiki Preschool student. The preschooler used the ti leaf to sprinkle water through a slide and across the equipment.

According to Poindexter, the Honokaa community has been asking her for an upgraded playground.

“It is because of you – the aunties, the uncles, the grandmas and the grandpas who have been calling me and saying, ‘Let’s get a safe place for our children to play.’ … You are the ones who hold us government officials accountable to building a safe and healthy community,” Poindexter said.

The bright green and blue equipment is in two separate structures – a smaller area for keiki 2 to 5 years old and a more challenging play structure with several higher slides for students 5 through 12 years old. The labyrinth of tunnels, slides bridges and monkey bars kept the preschool students busy until lunchtime on the overcast day.

The County Parks and Recreation project, which cost $295,000 according to the mayor, was completed ahead of schedule.