Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 7, 2003

City kicks off holiday in high spirits

By Will Hoover and Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

Jaime Pao of Kane'ohe hoisted granddaughter Kassity Balgas for an adult's eye view of the Honolulu City Lights post-parade festivities last night.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

If there was any doubt that this was destined to be a robust holiday season in Honoulu, the notion was dispelled yesterday as folks by the thousands swarmed through a whirlwind of festive events that culminated with the City Lights celebration.

While Windward residents watched the Kaneohe Christmas Parade just after breakfast, The Old Spaghetti Factory showroom at Ward Warehouse was gearing up for a sold-out Lunch With Santa party, a Boys & Girls Club of Hawai'i benefit.

Even as the Gingerbread Village at the Salt Lake Shopping Center's Christmas Celebration was winding down at 1 p.m., the Keiki Christmas Celebration, school chorus, hula and face-painting extravaganza at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center's Fountain Courtyard was just beginning.

And for those who may have wondered how the aloha spirit might fare this season, there was the annual Lokahi Tree Giving Project Kickoff at Ala Moana Center's Centerstage, where the public was asked to donate toys for needy children.

As entertainment acts from Jake Shimabukuro to Hapa performed to three levels of elbow-to-elbow onlookers, an endless parade of gift-givers nearly overwhelmed those who were there to collect them.

"This has been absolutely phenomenal," said organizer Jeff Brown, who has been at it for 10 years. "At 9:30 this morning we had more donations than we had in the entire year last time. Grace Bible Church brought more than 300 cartons. We thought we were going to run out of boxes."

Manoa Cub Scouts from Pack 33 line up to hand their toy donations to Della Bungcayao, one of many volunteers taking the gifts to the Lokahi Tree Giving Project at Ala Moana Centerstage. Scouts donated $10 of their own money, matched by the pack, then went shopping for gifts to donate to needy children.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Throughout the day, the offerings continued to pour in. A dozen members of Manoa Cub Scout Pack No. 33 lined up to give armloads of presents they had purchased earlier themselves.

"Each of these boys has donated $10 of their own money," said Clifford Tom, pack leader. "Our pack ... raised additional funds. Earlier today, the boys went on a shopping spree with $20 each and, by their own choice, purchased toys for other girls and boys in Hawai'i."

Meanwhile, back at Ward Warehouse, The Queen's Medical Center Auxiliary was holding its 49th Annual Festival of Trees and silent auction, this year featuring the largest collection of celebrity-decorated trees ever.

High on the must-have list was a wooden tree decorated by University of Hawai'i football coach June Jones, which comes complete with an autographed pigskin and green helmet ornaments signed by each member of the team.

This year, the donations will go to purchase a state-of-the-art, $50,000 system designed either to cool or heat a person rapidly, said event co-chairwoman Pat Loesche. The way contributions have been coming in, she said she had no doubt the hospital equipment would be paid for in full.

Other trees up for bid were decorated by former Hawai'i first lady Vicky Cayetano, designer Ann Namba and television personality Emme Tomimbang.

Ariana Anderson, 6, of Makiki, pets Chica the dog, in the arms of owner Mikala Hidalgo of Makiki at the Honolulu City Lights event downtown last night.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

The auction ends today at 2 p.m., but the festival will continue through 5 p.m., said elf Frank Thrall, standing next to a dazzling multicolor fiber-optic Christmas tree donated by Gabrielle Collins that's also on the auction block.

As the sun set, Honolulu City Lights, an annual favorite, drew about 75,000 people for the lighting of the mayor's Christmas tree and the annual electric light parade.

City vehicles pulling floats or outlined with enough lights to illuminate a small city were even more elaborate than in previous years. A Christmas village followed behind a road maintenance truck, and "Lilo & Stitch's" house was pulled by an environmental service truck. A facilities maintenance truck emitted smoke, bubbles and music.

The Fire Department was out in force, with trucks piled high with lighted helicopters and water boats. Buses and ambulances were decked out, and lifeguards, who brought their personal watercraft strung with lights, were a big hit with the kids. They were allowed to come in for a closer look as the parade ended.

Frank Thrall, a longtime volunteer with The Queen's Medical Center Auxiliary's 49th Annual Festival of Trees, admires a fiber-optic entry donated by Gabrielle Collins. The tree lights are cool to the touch and change color. The festival features a forest of celebrity trees, auctioned off to help the hospital buy equipment.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

"The garbage truck was freshly repainted," said Carol Costa, the city spokeswoman who has helped to organize the parade for nearly all of its 19 years. "It's clean as a pin inside. Kids can sit in back and get their pictures taken."

Rachel and Ashley Ko, daughters of Harry and Patty Ko, watched the parade across the street from Honolulu Hale and seemed mesmerized by a 6-foot-tall creature with glowing eyes, a segmented body and red cap stuck between its antennae. It marched between two of the many bands in the parade.

"A robot?" guessed 3-year-old Rachel.

The robot-bug wasn't the only odd character roaming the parade route. The Cat-in-the-Hat was there, along with a squadron of storm troopers from "Star Wars."

"I don't know what they're doing in a Christmas parade," a woman said as she snapped a picture of her child posing with the storm troopers. "But — oh, well."

Jim Korcal sat in his wheelchair across from the municipal building in a straw hat topped by a Santa cap and surrounded by children who called him Santa. His wife, Gloria Korcal, handed out candy canes.

"We don't have any children," Gloria said, "so we have to attract them with candy."

"I really am Santa," Jim Korcal said. "If you had your choice of the North Pole and Honolulu, where would you be?"