Community Christmas celebrations will look different this year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In years past, crowds would line the streets in a number of Big Island communities, welcoming the holiday season with bright, festive parades and displays of cheer.
The Downtown Hilo Christmas Light Parade, which is typically held the Saturday after Thanksgiving and kicks off the island’s seasonal festivities, was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
But others in Hilo, however, have found ways fill the void.
The Penn Hawaii Youth Foundation, founder BJ Penn and Penn Fitness Center will present a lighted drive-through parade from 6-9 p.m. Saturday at the former Hilo Lanes on Kinoole Street.
“My thing is about the kids,” said Lorraine Shin, foundation president.
The event, dubbed Keiki’s Christmas, will feature lighted, stationary floats that people can drive by.
Santa and his elves also will be on hand to give candy to children.
“I’m looking forward to a very successful, amazing (event),” Shin said.
‘Tis the Season, another holiday drive-through parade, will be held from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium
Gates open at 5 p.m. Enter through the Piilani Street entrance only. Drivers must present a valid driver’s license to enter.
More details were not immediately available.
Mainstreet Pahoa Association’s annual Pahoa Holiday Parade also will become a drive-through event this year.
According to an event posted on the association’s Facebook page, the parade is scheduled to take place 5-7 p.m. Saturday Dec. 19 at Puna Kai Shopping Center, 15-2714 Pahoa Village Road, Pahoa.
Each float will be socially distanced and have a maximum number of 10 participants, all of whom must wear a mask at all times.
Cash prizes will be awarded for the top three floats, and voting for best float will be done online by the public.
Although COVID-19 “set everyone back,” Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder said the community still wanted to do something for the holidays.
After driving through, parade-goers will be routed through downtown Pahoa, “and we’re working to get all the businesses lit up there so it’ll be a very festive feeling,” he said. “… Anything we can do to make things somewhat normal, to create that sense of normalcy, is great for the community, especially for the kids.”
Those interested in setting up a stationary float should email email@example.com for an application.
Meanwhile, the longstanding parades in Waimea and Keaau are going virtual.
The 60th annual Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade was canceled, with the inaugural Big Island Virtual Christmas Light Parade taking its place.
When coordinator Darde Gamayo heard the Waimea parade was canceled, “I was kind of bummed.”
The parade served as a benefit for the Big Island Giving Tree, she explained, with a “bucket brigade” collecting donations from the crowd. Those donations were then used to help kupuna and families in need islandwide throughout the holiday season.
To keep the fundraising efforts going, those who are interested in participating in the virtual parade must make a donation of any size to the Big Island Giving tree.
“Because of all years we need Big Island Giving Tree to help feed kupuna and needy families, it’s this year,” Gamayo said.
No individual or family has gone untouched by the pandemic, she said.
“For me, knowing that a lot of our families are facing situations that we’ve never faced before, our family included … it was important to me to find some way to help Big Island Giving Tree so they can help those who need it.”
Gamayo said that since “everything was going virtual,” she had the thought to do a virtual parade.
“Everything has changed this year and not at a gradual pace,” she said. “… It’s just been a change we’ve all had to adapt to. For me, everything is virtual, we’ll just go virtual (with the parade).”
The idea is to have people from the Big Island — and even beyond — submit a 20-second video of their house, car or business decked out in holiday decor, which will be compiled and set to Christmas music.
“We’ve gotten about a dozen or so entries so far, everything from people’s houses to the roller derby girls all lit up on their roller skates,” Gamayo said.
According to Gamayo, there’s even been a lot of interest from the mainland. She’s received emails from people in Texas, Florida and Utah.
The virtual parade will air on Na Leo TV the week of Dec. 20, although Gamayo said times have not yet been set.
The video also will be shared on the Big Island Virtual Christmas Light Parade Facebook page and Instagram account, and also will be posted on YouTube.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit facebook.com/ BIVirtualChristmas LightParade.
With a theme of “Celebrating Essential Workers,” the Keaau Lighted Christmas Parade also is going virtual this year.
Parade committee president Dean Cevallos said a video that includes some old parade footage and new videos submitted from the community will air at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, on Na Leo TV or on the station’s website.
“We love the fact that we have this for our community and really did get a lot of spectators who were used to coming and celebrating with us,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose them, (and) didn’t want to lose the celebration that we built over the years. (This was) the way we felt we could continue with that.”
The Kailua-Kona Christmas parade also has been canceled due to the coronavirus, but the Kailua-Kona Community Parade Association will host a virtual photo, drawing and coloring contest.
A full list of entry categories, coloring sheets and more information can be found online at paradesinkona.com.
The entry deadline is Dec. 16, and Santa will announce winners live on Facebook at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 19.
Email Stephanie Salmons at email@example.com.