BY CATHERINE TARLETON
SPECIAL TO NHN
“God was having a really good day when he made this place, I’ll tell you,” said Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs from the stage of Waiki’i Music Festival on June 16.
Playing to a crowd of about 1,500, the Grammy-winning musician and his band, Kentucky Thunder, brought dancers to their feet and made kids in the bouncy houses jump along.
“Hawaii Island is a natural setting for celebrations like this—of music, of family and community,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi, who joined the fun with his family after participating in Kona’s King Kamehameha Day Parade. “I think it is awesome that Waiki’i Music Festival is back.”
MC Tommy “Kahikina” Ching shared the stage with the mayor briefly (as they used to on the radio,) before introducing the next stellar musician: Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom. Her Hawaiian mele inspired impromptu hula from dancers in the audience, including daughter Madeline Uale’a o ka Mahine Tikehu Austin, 6, during “Palehua.”
“Maybe I’ll write a song like this for Waiki’i,” said Gilliom. Other performers on Saturday’s slate included John Cruz, Reginald Burden, Makana, Kohala, Na Mele o Paniolo and Donny B.
The cool, upcountry day, somewhat overcast with only an occasional drizzle, made for comfortable listening conditions in the concert arena, ringed with food and craft booths. The Paniolo Preservation Society, one of the event’s benefactors, organized a variety of food vendors that included keiki favorite shave ice and hot coffees for mom and dad.
A wide selection of crafters, information booths and massage service were arranged by ‘Aha Punana Leo, the co-beneficiary of Waiki’i Music Festival. John Kahiapo, education officer for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, was on hand with a table full of brochures.
“We’re here promoting our education programs, because we know Waiki’i is one good place to catch a lot of people from all over the island,” he said. “We have information on areas managed by DLNR—hunting, boating, fishing, endangered species, protected marine species …”
“I think it’s great,” said Pepe Romero of Hilo. “This kind of event is just what the Big Island needs,” he said. Romero was manning the booth for the Hawaii Island United Way fundraiser, “Big Island Biker and Family Festival,” August 25 in Laupahoehoe.
Well-organized and smoothly run, the festival used numerous volunteers, police officers, security guards, extensive signage, a first aid tent, bag check and more. Volunteers from near and far included Nolan Brown from Oahu, who ran a golf cart “taxi service” between parking lot and concert venue. Melanie Holt Bostock, wife of festival producer Tim Bostock, said Nolan was just one of many friends who called and offered to help, including all four of their children—two home from college.
“The energy has been so good,” she said. “People are so excited and positive, and so many have said ‘Thank you for bringing back Waiki’i Music Festival.’ They brought us leis, flowers from their yards. The Big Island is lovely that way.”
“I know we’re going to grow from this,” said Tim Bostock, who is already thinking about the next Waiki’i Music Festival. “Definitely, next year, we want another major country star,” he said. “And there’s a lot of great Hawaiian music out there. It will be five years or more before I start scratching my head and wondering who to invite.”
The festival continued Sunday, with a full bill of celebrated musicians: Pomaika’i Longakit, Cyril Pahinui, The Paul Nash Band, Guy Cruz and Ernie Cruz, Sr., Willie-Joe Camaro and Damien de Mello, Mike Love, Willie K. and Carly Smith.
For more information, visit. www.waikiimusicfestival.org.