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Waimea revives long-time Easter sunrise service tradition on Sunday (April 4)


For the first time in many years, Waimea residents and their extended ‘ohana and friends are invited to gather for a 6-7 a.m. ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service on Sun., April 4, 2010. Only this time it will be in the open-air garden amphitheatre setting of Waimea Nature Park, Ulu La’au, located behind the Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope’s Waimea headquarters.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a blanket to keep warm and a tarp, towel or mat to sit on. Lay representatives from several Waimea churches and community volunteers will assist with leading the service which will begin in near darkness.

For old timers, the gathering will be ever so reminiscent of Easter seasons long before the installation of traffic lights in Waimea, back when Kawaihae Road and Kohala Mountain Road were dead end streets. Back then, the “uhi wai”, or fine droplets of mist that blanket the Waimea area, would creep over the pu’u backdropping Waimea, envelop the town and block out the sun for weeks.

Also back then there was only one washerette and few families had the luxury of owning clothes dryers. People did not own multiple pairs of shoes and those remained in daily use without a chance to dry. It seemed that everything remained damp and cold but this was the accepted norm.

Waimea was a bustling town of approximately 1,800 people who thought nothing of having to brave the elements to do daily chores. Flower gardens radiated with eight or nine different colors of akulikuli flowers and sweet smelling carnations grew in neat straight rows with little care. Waimea Park was bordered on two sides by a dark green, meticulously square trimmed hedge of Cyprus which shielded a few homes from view, providing a unique vista not seen anywhere else on the island.

Each weekday morning, the smell of brewing coffee mixed with the smell of flowers accompanied Waimea’s paniolo to the horse pens where they mounted the animals to begin their long day on Parker Ranch. The farming community, a vital part of this town, had their own morning ritual that prepared them for the daily tasks they endured from dawn to dusk. With the rising of the sun, the rest of the community gradually filled in the duties that make a community function as the day eventually warmed.

The annual Easter Sunrise Service – celebrated in the same wide spot along the Kohala Mountain Road year after year — was an occasion planned far in advance with the hope that it would not rain. A large white cross visible for miles would marked the location, which today is a scenic overlook. Cattle from the Anna Ranch kept the grass under control for the yearly event.

Every Easter morning, people from Kohala and Waimea made their way to the site, lugging their blankets and tarps with children in tow. The goal was to be early, establish the family close enough to the cross so that the late comers would provide a shield, a human barrier to protect from the onslaught of the cold, wind-driven uhi wai that whipped by on its way to Kawaihae.

Few remember what was said during the service. The choir songs blended with the howl of the wind and were understood only by those huddled close by. The highlight of the service was the Aloha that was ever so evident. Families, friends and visitors greeted each other with genuine smiles and chattering teeth. Hugs were highlighted with remarks commenting on the coldness of ones nose, filling the air with laughter.

When the Easter celebration concluded, families made their way to the shelter of their vehicles and began the slow trek home with the promise of a warm breakfast punctuated with hot coffee or chocolate.

Though the winter cold being experienced in recent weeks is only a mild reminder of days long forgotten, a warming breakfast will still be welcome following the Easter sunrise service, and the community is invited to enjoy the Waimea Lions Club’s annual pancake breakfast from 7-10:30 a.m. at the old Parker Ranch Broiler (also formerly known as Tante’s in the Parker Ranch Shopping Center). Tickets are available from Lions Club members or at the door for $5. Funds raised support the Lions many community service projects.

Participants in the Easter sunrise service may park in the CFHT parking lot or along the street.

These sweet memories of Easters past were recalled by Leningrad Elarionoff, who is coordinating this year’s Waimea sunrise service in Ulu La’au. For more information, call him at 885-1895.

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