Holiday tradition: Parker Ranch celebrates Fourth of July paniolo style for more than 50 years

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today A rider competes in the keiki barrel race at the Parker Ranch July Fourth Rodeo and Horse Races in 2019. The annual rodeo was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Editor’s note: While the sports world is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Hawaii Today will look back every Tuesday at memorable sports moments on the Big Island.

The coronavirus pandemic put a damper on Fourth of July festivities this year — including Parker Ranch’s annual Fourth of July Rodeo in Waimea, which was canceled for what would have been the event’s 58th edition.

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The rodeo started in 1962, and is a long-lasting part of the Big Island’s paniolo culture. Island cowboys and cowgirls compete in horse races — usually both quarter-mile and one-eighth-mile— ranch mugging, team roping and other traditional rodeo events. It’s a way for Parker Ranch to “continue to keep the unique ranching lifestyle and culture alive in Hawaii.”

There’s also po’o wai u, a Hawaiian rodeo tradition where a rider on horseback ropes a steer by the horns and then moves it to a forked stand known as an amana. The rider dismounts and then the steer is tied to the amana.

The rodeo is a beloved tradition for the current Big Island paniolos and the generations that came before them.

“This is a fun, family rodeo and I loved watching the events, especially the horse racing,” Lindsey Barkley told the West Hawaii Today after the 2017 rodeo. “There are so many generations here and it was awesome that I was asked to compete.”

In 2003, the popularity of the rodeo was growing, as the Parker Ranch grounds hosted close to 2,000 people for the big day, one of the largest crowds the rodeo had seen up until that point.

“I think the sport is still growing,” participant Kacy Boteilho said in a July 6, 2003, West Hawaii Today article. “For example, we’re going to a rodeo in Ka’u and they’re expecting 400 team ropers alone. More kids are competing in the keiki division and then at the high school level, which is how I started. Plus, there’s now a ton of women competing in rodeos compared to how it once was.”

Until 2003, the rodeo’s events were only open to Parker Ranch employees for participation. For the rodeo’s 41st year, events were opened to include representatives from Puuwaawaa Cattle Ranch, Ponoholo Ranch, Boteilho Enterprises, Palani Ranch, S.C. Ranch and the Hawaii Horse Owners Association.

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“This is a family event,” rodeo competitor Corky Bryan told West Hawaii Today’s Ron Eland in 2003. “Before, it was just open to Parker Ranch employees and now it’s open to other ranches on the island. I think it’s great because it builds a lot of camaraderie among those from the various ranches.

“This rodeo has been a tradition on the ranch for more than 40 years. The employees put in a lot of time each year to put on a good show. As long as you have cowboys, you’ll have rodeos.”

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