How the Haʻikū Hoʻolauleʻa and Flower Festival Began
by Mike Gagne, Co-founder
The year was 1992. I was President of Haʻikū Community Association presiding over an evening meeting in late winter. Turnout was light as usual for this time of year-maybe eight community members. Having completed the usual minutes approval and announcements we opened the meeting for “anything” discussion. Ed Silverstein, a board member, had a topic he wanted to discuss concerning developing a way to define Haʻikū. He remarked how other communities had rodeo, festivals, fairs and such that not only established their culture but assisted them economically. Ed was a passionately persuasive speaker and the meeting lit up with this discussion.
Ed and I continued to talk about this idea over the phone and in person during the next couple weeks. Our conversation always stumbled at how. I remembered having talked with Lucienne DeNaie about her establishing a craft fair in her small town in CA and told Ed I would ask her to join us. I called Lucienne and in my excitement thinking I had this wonderful concept to show her I blurted out how I thought she could help us do this event. Her immediate response was “NO WAY!”
I was crushed and somehow excused myself as she described how hard it was and only a few people do all the work for everyone else. She was right of course. In my next discussion with Ed it became apparent that we had little recourse if we really wanted to follow through with this but to find someone who could tell us “how.” I had to pry some info out of Lucienne.
When I called her again a couple weeks later I asked if she could just tell us what to and promised we would do it. She hemmed and hawed but finally said she could give us a little direction. With her first list of “must haves” we set about accomplishing the tasks.
A few days later I called her back and to her surprise and ours we were mostly complete. I asked what was next and she arranged to meet us at Ed’s house where we sat on the front deck and hatched out a more thorough list. In the discussion there were obviously things that she was the more appropriately suited for and she agreed to the crafter component as her part. I believe she realized we were serious and not just looking for someone to do all the work. Meetings became more frequent and soon there were others joining us. It was rolling.
Maui Flower Growers Association came on board with Mack Blair. Lucienne helped us devise some unique floral events which we still do. They provide blooms and greens and with borrowed vases a floral arranging contest was born. Entrants are given the materials and with judging by the MFGA a prize of $25 dollars is awarded to the best entry. There is no fee to the participants.
In one of the early meetings the question was asked “What to call this?” “Flowerfest” was easy but we wanted to have an Hawaiian name. I suggested “Hoʻolauleʻa” and Lucienne said it should be about celebration. I said that was the Hawaiian word for it. She said she didnt believe that was it but she would research the terms. I had remembered driving by the MCC campus a year earlier when they had a sign up for that very thing with (Celebration) right beneath it. The next meeting “Hoʻolauleʻa and Flower Festival” was confirmed with Lucienne being shocked that I knew.
Planning continued with not a few hurdles to overcome. There were no tent rental companies that had anything we could afford. We tried to borrow but found almost nothing available. Ed discovered the Boy Scouts had medium sized camping tents and set about trying convince them of our need. They quit returning his calls after a bit. I called and pleaded with them and said that this was an event for our kids benefit. I received a call back from BSA Maui Quartermaster that they had not understood what we were doing this for but as long as it was for kids that they thought we could use a few of theirs. Silverstein was jubilant more than I at this news.
The first event took place in September with no insurance or proper permits and was very seat of the Haʻikū pants style but so many people came out to help us that it was heartwarmingly successful. We broke new ground in silliness with the “Haʻikū rubber boot race”, the pineapple run with Valley Isle Roadrunners, a lawn mower race with a push mower beating out all the riding mowers and host of other cultural, art and music happenings.
Success meant having $700 after it was all over to give to the PTA which would not have happened without the $1000 grant that Lucienne helped us coax out of the County.
All of the above and more happened the first year. Ed passed away a couple months afterward. We had egged each other on for about 8 months while he was suffering from an illness that was weakening him. He postponed treatment on the mainland for fear of not being able to complete the project. It was devastating for all of us.
The second year was difficult to stage but we were all committed to carrying on. One of Ed’s things was to get Haʻikū School to make the HHFF its event. They had the “Spring Bazaar” which we argued was carrying a Turkish name when it should be Hawaiian. A noble effort but the PTA wasn’t buying it. Ultimately, a few years later, they adopted the event and I personally felt that it gave it a lot more credibility as a kid centered happening.
Ed Silverstein would have loved what this has become today. I think about him every time we meet or stage the FlowerFest as do most of the old timers who still show up on the day. It is now a fitting tribute.