An Ode to Koloa Plantation Days

The Koloa Plantation Days parade is unlike any parade I’ve ever been to. From the pau riders in their royal attire to the expressions of young ones admiring classic cars and decorated floats, you really get this sense of ohana from the mid-morning celebration.

I experienced this warm embrace during a recent visit to the island. My boyfriend’s Kauai family definitely knew how to get the best seats in the house – by parking their truck under a shaded banyan the night before and packing it with chairs and towels for our sitting comfort. Other families did the same, also bringing books and toys to keep the kids occupied before the parade began.

The parade is a big deal for Kauai. You hear about it on the radio and in supermarkets, where ladies chit-chat about it over fresh produce. The guys get their game plan in order, of when and where they want to set up for the annual festivities. Being from Oahu, where there seems to be a parade for every nationality, holiday and club, it was refreshing to feel that small-town vibe present in Koloa and gain a renewed sense of appreciation for the simpler things.

VIDEO: The Koloa town parade brings out the best of Kauai.

The parade is the last hoorah of a very special week-long celebration called Plantation Days. It is meant to educate locals and visitors about Koloa’s origins as a town spawned by the sugar industry. But everyone knows that the parade doesn’t start until Paulo sounds several loud toots that can be heard from the other side of town. He’s the oldest operating steam locomotive in the state and apparently, quite the star of the island.

Kids cheer as Paulo choo-choo’s by the crowds that line the roadway. He leads the pack of marching bands, rodeo horses and classic cars trailing behind. Kids point in anticipation of the next cool float and get a kick out of the candy, coloring books and banana giveaways. Everyone is full of smiles, full of joy during this celebration – being together and taking pride in all that is Koloa. From what I observed, the parade has become more than just a parade; it is an opportunity for the heart and soul of this town to shine, and is what keeps it going for generations to come.