Sandie Wong and her dog, Happy. ( COURTESY PHOTO)
Sandie Wong of Kapaau is this year’s Pa’u Queen of North Kohala’s Kamehameha Day Celebration in Hawi and Kapaau on June 11, the statewide holiday. Wong is being honored as P’au Queen for her paniolo skills, her longstanding community contributions, and her ancestral roots in North Kohala.
Wong began riding 33 years ago when she met her husband Bill, who jokes that she fell in love with his horses first. She first rode as a Pa’u princess in Honolulu in 1988, and later represented the island of Maui in the North Kohala Kamehameha Day celebration in 1996.
Wong and all her family members are serious team ropers. The family raises quarter horses for the roping activities, along with cattle, on their own Yap Ranch at Kahei, near Upolo Airport in Hawi.
When Sandie Wong married Bill and moved to North Kohala from Oahu, she knew she was returning to her ancestral roots. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Fook Tai Yap, who owned and ran a butcher shop in Halawa. She immediately felt home, and she’s been in North Kohala ever since. This year she agreed to ride as the Pa’u Queen of North Kohala’s Kamehameha Day celebration because the theme is Na Pua O Kamehameha, which means The Generations of Kamehameha, and she feels strongly connected to both her great great grandfather, and the community of North Kohala, where King Kamehameha was born. Humble and generous, Sandie says that she is blessed to be asked to honor King Kamehameha and celebrate his legacy in the village of her ancestors.
Wong and her husband own and operate ATV Outfitters in Kapaau, which they started and 1998, as well as Kohala Ditch Adventures, which they began in 2010, after the Kohala Ditch was repaired from earthquake damage. They started Yap Ranch in 2001, on which they raise several hundred cattle and many quarter horses. A graphic designer, Sandie Wong created the logos for their businesses.
As if these three enterprises weren’t enough to keep them busy, the couple also raised several hanai children who still work with them. They have two biological sons, Christopher, 29, who works with the businesses and manages the family ranch, and Andrew, age 22, who received a rodeo scholarship at Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas, and is now team roping in the semi pro circuit on quarter horses from the family ranch.
The Pa’u Unit in the North Kohala Parade will be especially spectacular this year because it will include 14 horses from the Yap Ranch, the largest Pa’u unit ever. The parade begins at 9 a.m. at Ho’ea Road in Hawi and goes to the Kamehameha Statue in Kapaau, turning at the Kohala Hospital Loop, and ending at Kamehameha Park at 10 a.m. Nine Pa’u princesses will accompany Queen Sandie. A full day of free entertainment will take place at the Ho’olaulea at Kamehameha Park in Kapaau, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.