By Lisa Marie Dahm
North Hawaii News
More than 3,000 spectators turned out for the 56th Annual Honokaa Saddle Club Memorial Day Weekend Rodeo from May 26 to 28 at the Honokaa Rodeo Arena. The organization gave away 11 scholarships to Hawaii Island students, each between $500 and $1,000, based on the proceeds of last year’s rodeo.
Events over the three days included: team roping, po’o wai u, double mugging, sheep riding, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, junior bull riding, a calf scramble, a wahine breakaway, century team roping, calf roping and a rawhide race.
Manny Souza, who has been competing in the rodeo for at least 30 years, called the rodeo the “best and the biggest on the island.”
“It’s the atmosphere of the weekend and the location,” Souza said. “It’s a good venue for this type of rodeo.”
Cody Jose, 24, from Honokaa, said he, too, has been competing in the rodeo for most of his life.
“Everybody loves coming here,” Jose said.
According to William Andrade, of Ahualoa, one of the founding Honokaa Saddle Club members, the event began after the arena was built in 1954.
“When we started, there were no bleachers,” Andrade said.
He said they went into the forest and cut eucalyptus to build seating on both sides of the arena for 2,000 people.
“That is what the arena was built for – for cowboys and cowgirls,” Andrade said.
The wooden seating was eventually replaced with metal bleachers on one side of the arena.
Patricia Andrade, of Ahualoa, the club’s treasurer, said the event draws the largest number of contestants in the state. This year, she said there were 365 participants from all over the state and from the mainland.
“We have some really good local talent,” Andrade said.
She said families come yearly for the three-day event, making it a Memorial Day tradition.
“We are packed to capacity and we wish to grow,” Andrade said. She said she hopes they expand the county arena and park, which is much used by area residents.
She said this year, she was surprised at the number of saddle bronc riders.
“It was almost a dying art,” Andrade said. “It’s made a huge comeback, which is really exciting.”
The Saddle Club has 42 members and Andrade said there are more people joining each year.
Audrey Maxwell, who served as the club secretary for about five years, said she likes the event because it “brings the town together and showcases an event that people aren’t used to seeing on a daily basis.”
“All the kids grow up in the rodeo and they become good at what they do,” Maxwell said. “It keeps kids off the streets and they become focused.”