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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Wide-open house in Waimanalo

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

After hundreds showed up to celebrate opening day of the "Waimanalo Rocks the Polo Field" concert and festival yesterday, organizer Andrew Jamila Jr. breathed a sigh of relief.

Waimanalo resident Eugene Kia displays his handcrafted poi pounders during the festival on the polo field. The festival, including a concert and concession sales, will continue today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It had rained, the polo field was soaked and they had closed Kalaniana'ole Highway one day after they had reopened it," said Jamila, who said there was a lot of praying going on last week.

"As you can see, it turned out to be a nice, sunny day, the field's dry, the road's open again and lots of people are here having a good time."

The festival, a joint effort by the community and the city, was hastily organized in one week as part of an emergency economic revitalization of the Waimanalo area. The event featured gourmet food, handicraft products and entertainment, all provided by a couple of dozen businesses within the area.

The admission-free festival and concert will continue today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A similar event is planned for next weekend at the same location.

"It was short notice," said Eugene Kia, who operated a woodcraft booth. "I just heard about this two days ago."

The community has been financially devastated since Kalaniana'ole Highway was temporarily closed for three weeks in November while the state did work to minimize the risk of falling rocks above the roadway near the Makapu'u lookout.

"The Makapu'u road closure has left this community virtually bankrupt," said Manuel Menendez, city director of economic development, who was at yesterday's event. "The bigger story is how all this has come together on such short notice. This is only the first step in a series of events that we're going to do."

Toni Blanchard was among the Waimanalo merchants who were happy to see something being done.

"This is a good start," said Blanchard, whose Point Break surf shop suffered a drastic drop in business after the highway closure. "I cried the day they closed it, because I knew what was going to happen."

Blanchard was all smiles yesterday.

The highway, which was reopened Wednesday, was shut down again on Thanksgiving after heavy rains caused large rocks to crash onto the pavement. State engineers reopened the highway Friday afternoon.

"This has been tremendous," said co-organizer Joe Ryan. "We got vendors who are about to go chase more product because they're selling so well. This is only the beginning."