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First of five holiday parades around island kicks off tonight in Hilo

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Roberts Hawaii representatives wave while riding a bus during the 2017 Hilo Christmas Light Parade.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo The Operation Sammy Muscular Dystrophy Hawaii float glows with holiday decorations during the 2017 Hilo Christmas Light Parade.

‘Tis the season for holiday festivities — and plenty of parades.

The 33rd annual Downtown Hilo Christmas Lights Parade, put on by the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association, is the first of several on the Big Island this holiday season.

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The parade begins promptly at at 6 p.m. tonight. This year’s theme is “A Hawaiian Christmas.”

Starting from Piopio Street, the parade will travel on Pauahi Street before turning left on Kamehameha Avenue and left on Waianuenue Avenue before heading down Keawe Street and Kilauea Avenue, eventually turning back onto Pauahi Street and ending on Piopio Street.

Grand marshal will be Ikaika Marzo, “because of all the things he’s done and helped our community (with) during the time that we needed it most,” parade chairwoman Lani Shigehara Walters said, referring to Marzo’s social media activity and as a community organizer during the Kilauea eruption in lower Puna.

“A few years back, we almost lost having the Christmas parade in downtown Hilo,” she said. “Traditionally, Hilo town’s parade is the first parade to set up the holiday season for our island. I feel it’s important for us to keep this tradition going.”

Financially, though, the parade is a big expense, “which is why we almost lost it a few years ago,” Walters said.

Walters said this is her last year coordinating the Hilo parade.

“I hope we can find somebody to coordinate the parade,” she said. “If anybody’s interested in volunteering to take on this role, it would be great to keep this going. I would hate for it to stop at this point.”

For more parade information about the parade, visit downtownhilo.com/christmasparade.

Pahoa

The Mainstreet Pahoa Association’s holiday parade begins at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1.

“This is the 25th annual holiday parade, and so, especially in light of the lava flow, we wanted to see if we could make it a little bigger and a little better, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” parade chairman Dean Kelley said.

According to Kelley, participants will line up at Apaa Street, and the parade will proceed through the town to Pahoa High and Intermediate School, about a mile total. Streets will be closed off from 9 a.m. until noon.

As of Wednesday, more than 40 participants have signed up, about 25 percent more than previous years, he said.

“Come early, park on some of the side streets, and just be ready to have a good time,” said Kelley.

The parade, however, is just the beginning of a daylong celebration.

A hoolaulea will be held at the Pahoa Community Center following the parade until about 4 p.m., “so a big party,” Kelley said, with entertainment, food, holiday crafts and hands-on activities for children.

Kelley said the parade has “always been a keiki and family event,” but in the wake of the trauma caused by the Kilauea eruption earlier this year, “we’re hoping people will come and enjoy the parade and have a good time with the hoolaulea.”

Pahoa businesses have been “severely hit” this year, he continued, so the holiday celebration is “also a way to kind of remind people that Pahoa is alive and well and open for business, and (to) have a little fun.”

Grand marshal of the parade will, again, be Ikaika Marzo, who Kelley said is being recognized for his “untiring activities during the lava flow” to keep residents in lower Puna informed.

Waimea

The 58th annual Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade takes to the streets from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1.

To match this year’s theme of “Honoring Our Teachers — Our Guiding Stars at Christmas and Always,” educator of more than 40 years and advocate Patricia Rice will be grand marshal.

“There’s great excitement this year about remembering and honoring the tireless dedication, commitment, and caring of our teachers — and we mean all teachers — from those who nurtured us from infancy through high school and beyond, and also those who share their knowledge and mana‘o well beyond school days, ensuring lifelong learning,” parade chairwoman Lani Olsen-Chong.

Mamalahoa Highway through Waimea town center will be closed during the parade, which begins at the east (Hilo side) end of historic Church Row Park, travels south through town along Mamalahoa Highway, turns right onto Lindsey Road and passes Parker School before ending at Waimea Park.

For more parade information, visit waimeatown.org.

Kailua-Kona

The 34th annual Kailua-Kona Christmas Parade is 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, with a “Storybook Christmas” theme.

Presented by the Rotary Clubs of West Hawaii and The Kailua-Kona Community Parades Association, the parade starts at the Kekuaokalani Gym and heads down Kuakini Highway to Alii drive and proceeds down to Royal Kona Resort, said Renee Kraft, co-chair of the parade association.

Kraft said organizers expect more than 50 parade entries.

In support of the The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food bank, the committee asks that nonperishable food items be given to the food bank’s parade entry as it passes, she said.

For more information, visit paradesinkona.com or call 346-2108.

Keaau

The Keaau Christmas Parade Committee will host the 15th annual Keaau Lighted Christmas Parade at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8.

The parade begins on Keaau-Pahoa Road near Keaau High School and Keaau Elementary School, travels through Keaau village, and ends near Puna Hongwanji Mission, committee member Bill Walter said.

With a theme of “A Critter Christmas,” in honor of the difficulties many pets and animals suffered as a result of the Kilauea eruption earlier this year, as well as from Hurricane Lane, the Hawaii Island Humane Society will lead the parade as grand marshal.

There was a “sensitivity to a lot of focus on people being displaced, and of course that’s a major issue,” but Walter said there was also a sensitivity to “all of us having pets that we love,” the pets that were also displaced and the work of the HIHS.

While the parade size varies from year to year, Walter said it normally has 40 to 45 entries.

Along the parade route, choirs will sing Christmas tunes prior to the parade’s start.

Sidewalks and open spaces begin to fill early. Parking is available along the parade route, with parking also available at the Keaau High School athletic parking area, according to the parade committee.

“It’s kind of a fun time to get together in the community, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Walter said. “What can we do to encourage that sense of community and good feelings, and this is one thing we can do.”

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Those interested in participating can request packets on the Keaau Christmas Parade Facebook page or by calling the W.H. Shipman office at 966-9325.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.