Da Rites of Spree-ing?

Liddo Bitta Tita

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Story by Kathy Collins | Illustration by Matt Foster

Listen to this column read aloud in pidgin:

hula girl illustration by Matt FosterS
mall kid time, my favorite Sunday of da year was Eastah at Po‘okela Church in Makawao. Po‘okela is one a da oldes’ churches on Maui, from 1843. Was one all-Hawaiian congra-gation back den, so da services was prob’ly all in olelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language). So, insteadah Eastah Sunday, da guys wen’ cela-brate Ka la i ala hou ai ka Haku (da day da Lord wen’ rise again). Dass what da Hawaiian Prada-stents call ‘em. Da Cat’lics use da word Pakoa, fo’ Passovah.

Anyways, my maddah would take out my straw hat from da box in da closet, so I could wear ‘em in da kids’ Eastah parade, an’ we would drive Upcountry in da dark, fo’ go sunrise service.  Da church ladies would make hot cross buns an’ cocoa, an’ aftah da big Eastah egg hunt, we would eat ‘em wit’ da eggs we wen’ find. Back den, da Eastah bunny nevah bring plastic eggs wit’ money or candy inside; da buggah only leave hard-boiled eggs for us. But dass OK, was ‘ono (delicious).

Nowadays, when Eastah comin’ up, I t’ink mo’ about hula dan hot cross buns. Dass ‘cause ev’ry year, da week aftah Eastah, get da Merrie Monarch Festavoh in Hilo. Da festavoh run all week long, but da main event, da hula compa-tition, is da las’ t’ree days. Da tickets always sell out, but, lucky fo’ us, dey show da whole t’ing on TV. Da Merrie Monarch is da numbah one, ichiban (dass “numbah one” in Japanee) hula festavoh in da whole world, kinda like da Olympics of hula.

But you know, nevah start out li’dat. In fack, da firs’ few Merrie Monarch Festavohs nevah have hula at all. Da originoh plan was fo’ make one big town party in Hilo, fo’ attrack tourists to da Big Island. So, couple Hawai‘i County officials wen’ come visit Maui, fo’ check out da Lahaina Whaling Spree.

Da firs’ Whaling Spree was Septembah 1962, t’ree days of contests an’ entertainment an’ exhibits, all focused on da days when Lahaina was one mayjah port’a call fo’ da whaling ships. Da beard contes’ was da mos’ populah event, an’ guys would come from all ovah da state fo’ entah in one a da cata-gories and hopefully win da grand prize. Had muttonchops and handoh-bars and sideburns and Fu Manchus. Our formah guv’nah an’ congressman, Neil Abercrombie, was one a da winnahs in da very first beard contest.

Da parade was one big deal, too, wit’ fancy kine floats an’ costumes an’ all. Richard Boone, from da TV show Have Gun, Will Travel, was da grand marshal in 1966. He was one a da Hollywood guys who wen’ buy one house on Maui back in da early days, befo’ da res’ a da world wen’ find out about us.

Da guys who wen’ make da Spree ev’ry year, dey wanted fo’ pay tribute to da days when Lahaina was da busiest town in da islands, so they wen’ plan all kine historical recreations like boat races, cutlass fights, even firing da cannons by da courthouse. But by da early seventies, mos’ guys was only int’rested in acking like da old-time sailors. Which meant getting drunk an’ rowdy in da streets. So, aftah only ten years or so, da Whaling Spree wen’ get harpooned.

Da Merrie Monarch guys nevah like see their festavoh come li’dat, so dey wen’ add high-class hula compa-tition an’ education. An’ dass what dey been doing fo’ da past forty-t’ree years. Much mo’ civilized dan public drunkenness, an’ way mo’ appropriate fo’ da week aftah Eastah.

Shoots, too bad we nevah t’ink a dat mo’ first.

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