Once again, the normally sleepy upcountry community of Makawao came alive this past weekend to celebrate Independence Day the only way it knows how…by hosting the Makawao Rodeo. The rodeo is a four-day weekend event, which includes a bull-bash on Friday night, followed by a huge parade on Saturday morning. Last year the organizers had the bull bash on Thursday night, which, in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the best idea. Like going from Coke to New Coke, the change last year left a bad taste in people’s mouths. So this year it was back to the basics, the formula which has been popular for several years: Bull bash on Friday night, parade on Saturday morning.
The bull bash was packed as always and the mutton bustin, junior bull riding, and professional bull riding was fantastic to watch. No sheep, bulls, or people were seriously injured, the rain held off, and the food was on point, so it was a good night.
On Saturday morning, we got up early and got ourselves some good seats along the parade route and met up with some friends to watch the parade together. This is an election year, so we knew the parade was going to have its fair share of political candidate floats, which is good for the spectators, as they usually hand or throw out goodies into the crowd (candy, little flags, buttons, t-shirts, etc.) and it’s even better for the organizers as they get more money to host the parade.
This year, there were plenty of artists painting, and sketching the parade (which I would imagine would be super difficult, seeing how everything is in constant motion). There was one clever lady who had a basket with free puppies she was trying to find a home for. I thought that was a pure genius marketing move.
The very first event, before the parade begins, is the stick-horse race for kids. Just as it sounds, kids line up and run about and eighth of a mile up the parade route, stop, regroup, then run back down the road. There are a lot of scraped knees and hands, but it is beyond cute to see the littlest ones stick-horse in one hand, the parent’s hand in the other, moseying along, not a care in the world.
First up in the parade were the classic cars.
The weather was touch-and-go in the morning and it quite literally rained on our parade, but it was only a drizzle and it helped keep us cool. As a bonus for the photographer in me, I loved the beaded rain drops sitting atop those fantastic paint jobs and the street has a nice sheen to it.
The marching band followed the classic cars and the parade was officially in full swing! It was all about the veterans at the beginning of the parade, which is fitting as we were celebrating our Independence Day over the long weekend.
For the first time I can recall, the Coast Guard had a float in the parade, but there are still no police or fire department floats in the parade. Maybe that is because the county has a rule that won’t allow it or something silly like that, but I would love to see a fire truck in the parade some year, lights flashing, kids going crazy when it blows the horn.
The parade is really a celebration of the paniolo or cowboy lifestyle that shaped Makawao and the community around it. The horses are adorned with some of the most beautiful leis you may ever see. This year, some of the more stylish horses were bedazzled with body paint, flags, and ribbons in their hair.
Hawaii Cane and Sugar Company had a float in this year’s parade. Since 1870, HC&S has been operating on Maui, but the company will be closing it’s sugar mill at the end of this year’s harvest. It will be a bittersweet moment when it happens, but it will begin a new chapter for the island of Maui and help shape a new identity for the Valley Isle. It was a nice gesture to have a presence in the parade, and I am glad they took the time to participate.
After the parade it was time to head up the hill to Oskie Rice arena and watch the afternoon rodeo events. Saturday afternoon had the likes of keiki, junior, and adult barrel racing, breakaway, calf roping, century calf roping (where the combined age of the two participants has to be equal or greater than 100), steer wrestling, and double mugging.
Steer wrestling was very intense to watch and action packed. The event requires two riders, one to keep the bull running true, while the other rider jumps off their horse at full gallop, lands next to the bull, and twists and yanks the bull’s head until they wrestle the bull onto its back. It takes some serious skill to time the leap right, but then you need pure muscle to have the bull submit to your will and flop onto the ground.
Just like every year, there were plenty of cowboys, both big and small at the rodeo.
If you are ever visiting Maui over Independence Day, take a break from the beach and ocean and head upcountry to the Makawao rodeo.