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Giddyup!: Mosey on Yonder to Honoka‘a For Western Week Festivities

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All photos are from past and current Honoka‘a Western Week activities. (Courtesy of the Western Week Facebook page)

Tug on those boots, slap on some spurs and giddyup on yonder to Honoka‘a this week. Western Week is here, and there’s no pussyfooting around it — there’s a galloping good time to be had.

From Paniolo Storytime for keiki at Honoka‘a Public Library to a whiskey tasting and family fun event, Saddle Up Saturday and the Hawai’i Saddle Club Mini-Rodeo, there’s still plenty to do this week. This year’s festivities also include online and in-person events. Western Week events are scheduled through May 30.

“We’re very happy to be back in the saddle again after a cancellation in 2020 and mostly virtual events last year,” Catherine Tarleton, spokeswoman for Western Week, told Big Island Now in an email. “Honoka‘a Western Week is a 60-plus-year tradition that’s important in our community.”

Tarleton said Honoka‘a has a personality all its own.

“It’s a former sugar cane plantation town that has a paniolo heritage worth celebrating,” she said in her email. “Western Week grew out of the annual rodeo, when cowboys and their fans would flock to town. Local merchants decided to make a week of it, and the rest is history.”

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The town is all decked out this week with Western decorations and there are even some colorful cutout boards created by local artists for photo opportunities. Western wear is not necessary, but it’s definitely welcome as you stroll through town. Tarleton said Western Week gives everybody a chance to kick up their heels a little, dress up and sort of “release their inner cowboy” as much or as little as they want.

“It’s a downhome community good time,” she said.

This year’s festivities kicked off May 17 with the pre-Western Week Saloon Girls & Cowboys Got Talent Contest at Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. Taking first place in the talent contest was Robert Savery. Hannah Kaplon won second place, and third place went to Elliot Reddekopp. The winners received cash prizes, an interview with Big Island Music Magazine and a chance to record their own concert for Kahilu.TV.

The competition was recorded and is available to watch on Kahilu.TV.

In-person Western Week events officially kicked off May 22 with the Hāmākua Harvest Farm Fest. The next live event is planned for 5 p.m. today with Paniolo Storytime for keiki at Honoka‘a Public Library. Families are invited to dress up in their cowboy duds and pack their Western Week spirit.

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Then, at 6 p.m. Friday, May 27, those with a hankering for some tasty libations or just looking for a fun family outing can mosey on over to the Whiskey Tasting and Family Fun event at Honoka‘a Country Market.

For the grown-ups, there will be a fistful of whiskeys selected by the market to taste. There also will be a petting zoo in the parking lot, a meat raffle thanks to Double D Ranch and the movie “Rango” will be shown at dusk in the parking lot. Popcorn will be provided, but those who turn out are asked to bring their own chairs.

A new live event this year is Saddle Up Saturday, scheduled for 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Māmane Street. The event will feature a grassroots street market with Honoka‘a shops partnering with home-based businesses and others offering a variety of goods. Vendors will include Rockaholics Anonymous and an aura photographer tarot reader at Rising Moon Apothecary, Meli Gardens Honey at Gather, ʻĀhualoa Farms at Revel Artistry, Kalehua Creations, Three Queens Honey, Kreations by Raquel all 3 at Wehi Boutique and Pahale Farms Honey and Beet Kvass at Pāpaʻaloa Joe.

Live music will be provided by Archie Bell at 11 a.m. in front of the Fudge Shop, and food and drinks will be offered throughout the event by ‘Ohana Food Trailers, Tree House Collective Tacos and Hula Mama’s. Also at 11 a.m., in front of Honoka‘a People’s Theatre, the Honoka‘a Business Association will honor its 2022 scholarship winners. In addition, the Lionʻs Club and Hāmākua Youth Foundation will also award prizes.

There also will be a screening of the “Cowboys Talk Story” video at noon, 2 and 4 p.m. at Honoka‘a People’s Theatre. The video was wrangled up by Manny Souza and recorded in advance. This year, the cowboys are showing off and sharing the stories of their brands.

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Rounding out the in-person events is the Hawai’i Saddle Club’s Saturday slack roping event and mini-rodeo on Saturday and Sunday, May 28-29. The slack roping event begins at 8 a.m. Saturday with a qualifier. The mini-rodeo begins with opening ceremonies at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both events are at the Rose Andrade Correia Arena and free to attend.

Online events this year include the return of the Western Week Silent Auction. Last year’s auction was such a success — raising $5,000 — that organizers decided to bring it back in 2022 “with a whole new herd of fun, delicious, gorgeous, luxurious and collectible items,” according to a press release.

Some of the items up for bid this year are a one night stay with breakfast in an ocean view room at The Westin Hāpuna Resort in Waimea, a round of golf for two at Mauna Kea Golf Course in Waimea, a two night stay at Kamuela Inn in Waimea, a $100 Lehua Jewelers certificate and numerous vintage and collectible items such as a Fujimarca shave ice machine, Barbies and John Wayne memorabilia.

Bidding closes at 8 p.m. May 30. To see all of the items available, click here.

And for anyone who wants to get in on the fun by getting all gussied up and showing off their best Western duds online, there’s the Best Dressed Western Contest. The contest is open to everybody, even pets and horses, and runs through May 30. Those who want to participate should post their photos on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #hwwcostume22.

“We hope people enjoy themselves, and that they see what’s possible when a group of people put their heads together,” Tarleton said. “No matter how much or how little you have to work with, you can do amazing things as a community — especially a community that likes to have fun.”

Honoka‘a Western Week is a volunteer-driven project supported by the Honoka‘a Business Association, Hāmākua Kohala Health Center, Kō Education Center, Hāmākua Youth Center, Hāmākua Harvest, Friends of the Honoka‘a Public Library, Honoka‘a Heritage Center, Kahilu Theatre and many other sponsors and supporters celebrating Hāmākua’s paniolo heritage and unique cultural blend.

For more information about all the events, click here or follow Western Week on Facebook.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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