Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, May 12, 2005

'Parade Man' may wave goodbye

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

Nelson Fujio has been a volunteer organizer of parades in Honolulu for years, earning himself the nickname "Parade Man."

But he is worried that his parade days may soon be over because he is having trouble finding a home to store his parade equipment and build floats.

Nelson Fujio would like to use more of this waterfront warehouse to store parade equipment. Fujio is storing his equipment at a Pier 1 warehouse, where Kintetsu International Hawaii has agreed to pay the rent until the Pan-Pacific Festival in June.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Unfortunately, we're left out in the cold," said Fujio, who produces parades for the Honolulu Festival, the Pan-Pacific Festival and other events. "We're homeless."

Fujio, the Honolulu Festival Foundation and other parade groups enjoyed free rent for years at a warehouse at Pier 32, but had to move out several months ago to make way for Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines, which began service here in March.

He has since been trying, unsuccessfully, to find another long-term, affordable space in Honolulu.

Fujio's problem comes at a time when the Hawai'i Tourism Authority is trying to boost festivals and events to draw more visitors here. The Honolulu Festival brought about 5,500 tourists to Hawai'i last year, adding as much as $12.8 million in visitor spending to the economy, according to tourism officials.

Fujio said he understands why he and the Honolulu Festival Foundation had to move and that government officials and others have been trying to help him find a space. But it's been difficult.

The Transportation Depart-ment had offered the Honolulu Festival Foundation use of alternative harbor space at $1,912 a month for nearly 3,500 square feet but the foundation declined, department officials said.

Fujio is now storing his equipment at a Pier 1 warehouse, where Kintetsu International Hawaii has agreed to pay the rent until the Pan-Pacific Festival in June.

"But once this agreement or lease is expired, I'm homeless again," said Fujio, who is also president of Auto Fender Clinic Inc. in Kaka'ako. "So after doing this for 30 years, it may come to an end for me. And it's not by choice. ... I've been having a lot of sleepless nights. I sit back and I think to myself, 'Why am I doing this? I'm not even getting paid.' "

The Hawaii Community Development Authority is committed to working with Fujio and other parade groups to meet their needs and is working with state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert to locate a permanent space, said executive director Daniel Dinell. But Dinell acknowledged that it is difficult to find.

Using the Pier 1 site is a short-term solution because it is scheduled to be redeveloped into the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' headquarters and Hawaiian cultural center in 18 to 24 months, he said.

Organizing large parades involve using 10,000 to 50,000 square feet of space to build floats and set up props and other features, Fujio said. The space also needs to be close to Waikiki and downtown Ho-nolulu because transporting parade items long distances isn't feasible, he said.

"I'm not angry at anybody; I'm just really, really sad," he said. "I almost can see the end. There's basically no future and what is Hawai'i going to do, and what are the festivals going to do without my help? I don't know how they're going to maintain this kind of event."

Fujio organizes virtually every aspect of the parade, from helping a parade group obtain a city permit and building floats to ordering sound equipment, making the parade line-up and setting up the formation. He manages up to 200 volunteers who do everything from driving floats and lining up marchers to picking up trash following the parade.

An event can take up to a year to plan, and building floats can take about a month, Fujio said. Fujio doesn't count the hours he has spent on parades, but as the event approaches it can take up virtually all his time.

"Boy, I hope we can help him ... or he can get some help in finding a place," said Wayne Miyahira, executive director of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, which has worked with Fujio during its Okinawan Festivals. He said the association will not have a parade this year because of the cost but participates in other parades.

"We always feel a lot more comfortable if he's there to make sure the parades run well," he said. "Because of him, we've been able to share the culture with the rest of our community. ... We have to have somebody like him to coordinate it."

Honolulu Festival Foundation officials declined to comment on their plans if Fujio isn't available to help, but said they will hold the 12th Honolulu Festival March 10-12 next year as planned.

In the meantime, Fujio, who drives a Lexus SUV with the license plate "PARADE," is still hoping he can find a home and is preparing for the Pan-Pacific Festival parade next month.

"I don't just like it, I really love what I do," he said. "For me to continue to do this, people think I'm crazy most of the time because I get so involved in events like this, but it needs to be done and I'm so fortunate that I've been able to help and have this opportunity to help every time."

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 535-2470.