Top 20 things to do on Big Island for Jan. 25-31: Celebrate the life of former Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi, see ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ honor Ellison Onizuka and more

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It’s been 3 years since former Hawai‘i County Mayor William “Billy” Kenoi died at the age of 52 following a battle with cancer.

The Big Island will have the chance to celebrate Kenoi’s life and remember the lawyer, teacher, coach and public servant who was born in Kalapana during a special event Saturday in Hilo.

Everyone is invited.

That tops our list of events, activities and more happening around the island through the end of the month.

There also are more special Volcano Awareness Month events happening before the end of January at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park; the East Hawai‘i Master Gardeners Plant Sale in Hilo, author meet-and-greets, one in Kona that includes bubbles and brunch; a keiki air hockey tournament in Kona; the final weekend for Hilo Education Repertory Theatre’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest;” live concerts; an event in Kona honoring the first Asian American and first person of Japanese origin to reach space Ellison Onizuka, who was born and raised on the Big Island; and much more.

Here are our top 20 things to do on the Big Island for the week of Jan. 25-31.


No. 1 — Aloha, Billy (Hilo, Jan. 27)

Join the Kenoi ‘ohana from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium, located at 350 Kalanikoa St., to celebrate a life well-lived by former Hawai‘i County Mayor William “Billy” Kenoi. Born in Kalapana, Kenoi was a lawyer, teacher, coach and public servant.

The Big Island is invited to come and show some aloha for the man and mayor who died in January 2021 at the age of 52 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

You can also share your memories of Billy online.

No. 2 — East Hawai‘i Master Gardeners Plant Sale (Hilo, Jan. 28)

Image from the East Hawaiʻi Master Gardener Program website.

Hey, all you plant lovers. Come out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Komohana Research and Extension Center, located at 875 Komohana St., for this event that will feature native plants, perennial edibles, UH seed starts such as peppers and tomatoes, herbs and tropical fruit trees.

Information booths from the Master Gardeners, Big Island Invasive Species Council, One Cacao, Little Fire Ants Lab, small-scale hydroponics, Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization and Outdoor Circle will also be part of the event, along with live music and a talk by Jessica Santa Cruz from the Hawai‘i Wildlife Management Organization.

For more information, contact Laura Rieber, co-coordinator of the East Hawai‘i Master Gardeners, via email at [email protected] or by calling 808-969-8203.

No. 3 — Coffee Talk: What Happened in 1868? (Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Jan. 27)

File image

Join Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Katie Mulliken at 9:30 a.m. in the visitor contact station at the park’s Kahuku Unit, located near the 70.5-mile marker on Highway 11 in Kaʻū, as she shares information about Mauna Loa, Earth’s largest active volcano, and tells the story of the destructive eruption and associated earthquakes in 1868 during this special Volcano Awareness Month event.


Mulliken also will share information about how the observatory monitors Mauna Loa, which has erupted 34 times since 1843, most recently in 2022. During the talk, you also will learn about the eruptive history, structure and current status of Mauna Loa.

No. 4 — Bubbles, Brunch and Literary Delights (Kailua-Kona, Jan. 27)

Image from Daughters of Hawaiʻi website.

This captivating event from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will feature the unveiling of author Katherine Kayne’s highly anticipated new novel “Bound in Roses” at Hulihe‘e Palace, located at 75-5718 Ali‘i Drive. Not only will participants be able to meet Kayne, but they also will be able to take self-guided tours of the palace, there will be a mu‘u contest and bubbles and bites by The Strawberry Patch.

This also is not just a book launch party. It’s a fundraiser dedicated to supporting Hulihe‘e Palace. All proceeds from book sales will support the preservation, maintenance and operations of this historical treasure for generations to come.

For more information, click here.

No. 5 — Community Day and Air Hockey Tournament (Kailua-Kona, Jan. 27)

Courtesy image

Visit and enjoy the exhibits at Hawai‘i Keiki Museum, located in Building D at 74-5533 Luhia St. for free and as a bonus, take your shot during the air hockey tourney.

The museum received a professional air hockey table as a generous gift from a community member. Before it begins using it to perform incredible physics experiments on a “frictionless surface,” several age groups, from 5 years old and older, will have the chance to win gift cards to KBXtreme.

For more information, call the museum at 808-731-6311.

No. 6 — “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Hilo, Jan. 26-28)

Image from the East Hawaiʻi Cultural Center website

A play by Dale Wasserman, adapted from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel. Synopsis: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the unforgettable story of a mental hospital and its inhabitants. When a brash new inmate arrives, the rigid program of the ward, headed by the tyrannical Nurse Ratched, is thrown up for grabs.

This is the final weekend to catch the play, which is presented by Hilo Education Repertory Theatre at 7 p.m. Jan. 26, 2 p.m. Jan. 27 and 8 p.m. Jan. 28, on the Kahua ʻElua Theatre stage at East Hawai‘i Cultural Center, located at 141 Kalākaua St. It is directed by Larry Reitzer and was adapted from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel.

Doors open half an hour before each performance. To purchase your tickets, click here.

No. 7 — “The Boy and the Heron” (Hilo, Jan. 26 and 28)

Image from Facebook

Starring Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Gemma Chan, Willem Dafoe, Karen Fukuhara, Mark Hamill, Robert Pattinson and Florence Pugh, this Studio Ghibli production directed by Academy Award winner Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of young Mahito, who moves to his family’s estate in the countryside after losing his mother during war.

A series of mysterious events lead him to a secluded and ancient tower, home to a mischievous gray heron. When Mahito’s new stepmother disappears, he follows the heron into the tower and enters a fantastic world shared by the living and the dead.

The movie will be on the screen at the historic Palace Theater, located at 38 Haili St., at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 and 2:30 and 7 p.m. Jan. 28. Doors, box office and concessions open 30 minutes before showtime.

For more information or to purchase tickets, which are $10 for general admission or $9 for seniors, students and veterans, click here.

No. 8 — Stroll Through Haʻakulamanu (Sulphur Banks) (Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Jan. 27)

National Park Service photo

Join Hawaiian Volcano Observatory gas specialists Tricia Nadeau and Christine Sealing at 10 a.m. on a two-hour walk through the fumarolic area of Kīlauea volcano’s summit known as the Haʻakulamanu on the Sulphur Banks Trail.

Why do volcanoes emit gases? How does the composition of gases at Haʻakulamanu differ from gases being emitted from within the caldera? Come learn the answers to these questions and more during this special Volcano Awareness Month program.

Meet at the Kīlauea Visitor Center. The hike will end at Wahinekapu (Steaming Bluff).

No. 9 — “MySillyO: The Plastic Digester (A Fun Guy)” author talk (Hilo, Jan. 27)

Image from Facebook

Meet author Sahra Indio as she talks about her book “MySillyO: The Plastic Digester (A Fun Guy)” during this event at 2 p.m. hosted by Basically Books, located at 340 Kīlauea Ave.

Indio’s book follows a remarkable underground spore named MySillyO as he embarks on an adventure to heal the Earth from harmful plastic pollution.

For more information, call the bookstore at 808-961-0144.

No. 10 — Honoring Ellison Onizuka (Kailua-Kona, Jan. 28)

Courtesy image

Don’t miss this event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hawai‘i Keiki Museum, located in Building D at 74-5533 Luhia St., to honor local hero Ellison Onizuka. Booths from the University of Hawai‘i Institute of Astronomy, Thirty Meter Telescope, Subaru Observatory, Hawai‘i Community College-Pālamanui, Maunakea Visitor Information Station, Project Panoptes and more to learn about space exploration.

Ellison Shoji Onizuka, who was born and raised in Kealakekua and graduated from Konawaena High School in 1964, was the first Asian American and the first person of Japanese origin to reach space. He died Jan. 28, 1986, in the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger, on which he was serving as mission specialist for mission STS-51-L.

Free to attend with paid museum admission.

No. 11 — River Glen with Dramma Calais (Hilo, Jan. 27)

Image from Facebook

Attention music lovers! Come one, come all to Kukuau Studio, located at 43 Kukuau St., for an intimate performance of well-wrought original music featuring the exuberance of wordsmith and multi-instrumentalist River Glen, who’s visiting from Iowa.

A co-headliner is to be announced and the show will open with a serenade by Dramma Calais.

Doors open at 6 p.m. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door. Chocolate vending by Goddess Cacao also will be available.

No. 12 — Pō & the 4Fathers live (Hilo, Jan. 27)

Image from Facebook

Don’t miss this unique musical experience at the historic Palace Theater, located at 38 Haili St., that will deliver a lyrical message that is powerful and clear with a modern kānaka maoli perspective by this band that is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture, Polynesian rhythms and indigenous sounds.

Kainani Kahaunaele, a mele enthusiast, singer, songwriter, teacher, musician and advocate for Hawaiian language revitalization and perpetuation of Hawaiian music who was born and raised in Anahola, Kaua’i, will open the show.

Doors open at 6 p.m. The show starts at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, which are $25 general admission or $35 priority orchestra seating, click here. Tickets are $5 more the day of the show.

No. 13 — Puʻu o Lokuana Cinder Cone hike (Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Jan. 28)

National Park Service photo

Join this ranger-guided hike along the Pu‘u o Lokuana trail at the park’s Kahuku Unit, located near the 70.5-mile marker on Highway 11 in Kaʻū, and learn about how a cinder cone is formed and the various uses of this hill throughout time.

Enjoy a breathtaking view of lower Ka‘ū from the cinder cone’s peak. Why is (and was) it considered a kumu waiwai (a source of wealth) by the many different inhabitants of Kahuku?

This special one-hour, half-mile walk that starts at 9:30 a.m. supports Volcano Awareness Month. Meet at the Kahuku Visitor Contact Station.

No. 14 — Songs of Grief and Praise (Hilo, Jan. 25)

Image from Facebook

This event from 6 to 8 p.m. above The Booch Bar Hilo, located at 110 Keawe St., features guest teacher Aaron Johnson for the weekly class that will include joyous improv songs, gospel music and approaching grief. Co-teacher Zander will assist Johnson with guiding the group.

A group of Lokahi Chorus members also will drop in.

The suggested donation to attend is $10 to $20. Doors open as early as 5:30 p.m.

No. 15 — BlessFest Hawai‘i (Pāhoa, Jan. 25-28)

Image from Facebook

Come savor the magic of world music, sacred chant, yoga, ecstatic dance, healing arts, environmental workshops and community during this festival with events and activities at various times each day featuring an array of uplifting and heart-opening offerings from inspired and epic musicians, teachers, environmentalists and ceremonial elders from throughout the United States.

Hosted on 10 acres of tropical beauty and panoramic ocean views at Sundari Gardens, located at 4351 Pāhoa-Kalapana Road, this gathering has the intimacy and healing qualities of a retreat while also possessing the excitement and grandeur of a festival. With only 300 tickets available, you can truly slow down, tune in, dance, learn, play and immerse yourself in the renewal of an ecstatic community.

Come as you are, come with all your humanness and dive into the experience. All ages welcome; keiki 12 years old and younger are free. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

No. 16 — “Carving the Devine” (Hilo, Jan. 28)

Image from Facebook

Join Puna Hongwanji Mission for a special free screening of the documentary film “Carving the Divine,” directed by Yujiro Seki. The film offers a rare glimpse into a 1,400-year-old Buddhist woodcarving tradition and the practitioners working to preserve its legacy in a rapidly changing Japan.

The screening of this profound film is planned for 2 to 4 p.m. in the UCB 100 Hall at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, located at 200 W. Kawili St., near the main gate of the campus.

Donations are appreciated. Any donations will support the three Buddhist temples and people affected by the Maui wildfires. Click here for more information.

No. 17 — Measuring Mauna Loa (Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Jan. 30)

Image from the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park website

Mauna Loa volcano’s 2022 eruption occurred following 38 years of repose. Although the volcano appeared quiet, monitoring signals were tracking movement beneath the surface in the months leading to the eruption.

Join Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Frank Trusdell and geophysicist Ingrid Johanson at 7 p.m. in the Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium as they summarize the unrest before the volcano’s 12-day eruption that began within Mokuʻāweoweo (the summit caldera) and ended in the Northeast Rift Zone. Learn how the 2022 eruption compared to previous Mauna Loa eruptions and what the volcano has been doing in the year since the 2022 eruption ended.

This special After Dark in the Park program is part of Volcano Awareness Month events.

No. 18 — Lei Paint Party (Kailua-Kona, Jan. 27)

Image from Facebook

Come learn the brush strokes for plumeria, tea trees, rosebuds and crown flowers during this workshop from 2 to 5 p.m. at Da Taste by ‘Ohana Q, located in Suite 104 at 75-5742 Kuakini Highway, hosted by Tia Starr Studios. Draped lei are all the fashion right now, so the beautiful painting on black canvas will look great in any Hawaiian home.

Da Taste by ‘Ohana Q also has a full barbecue menu and cocktails you’ll be able to enjoy while painting on the lanai.

Gather your friends and register now for a fun creative day for the new year. The cost to attend is $55 per person and you can register online.

No. 19 — The Wall That Heals (Hilo, through Jan. 28)

File image from Facebook

The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., continues its stay in Hilo. The Wall spreads the healing legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and is also a traveling educational exhibit that explains the history and impact of the war.

It will be on display, 24 hours a day, on Hilo Bayfront after opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. Jan. 24 until 2 p.m. Jan. 28. Admission and parking are free. Guided tours are also available. For more details, click here.

No. 20 — Register now for Malasada Cooking Contest

Image from Facebook

It’s that time of year (before Lent begins) to honor the delicious, traditional family malasada recipes made by Big Island home cooks.

The contest, which is part of the Hawai‘i Island Portuguese Chamber of Commerce Malasada Shuffle 5K and Spring Festa, begins at 9 a.m. Feb. 4 at Aunty Sally’s Kaleohanao’s Lu’au Hale, located at 799 Pi’ilani St. in Hilo. Contestants are asked to make 5 to 6 dozen malasadas at home and bring them on the day of the contest to be tasted, judged and shared with the public.

Judging criteria include appearance, taste and texture of the malasadas, table decoration and the cook’s costume. Cooks must be present to participate. Participants are also asked to bring a copy of their recipe to share, if can.

Registration is open through Jan. 29. To register, call Marlene Hapai at 808-557-4540 and leave a message with your name, phone number and an email contact.

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