WAIMEA — Drivers honking their horns at pedestrians is a rarity in civil Waimea. But truckers doing so in concert can be heard much to their delight the first Saturday evening each December.
Hundreds of residents and visitors will fill both sides of Mamalahoa Highway for almost a mile this Saturday night, as nearly 60 semi-trucks promenade from Church Row to Waimea Park for the grand finale of the annual Waimea Twilight Parade.
This year’s theme, “Truckers Light the Town,” will mark their 20th year in the parade.
“Our beloved truckers are always a featured part of the parade, as they are such an important part of our town,” said Lani Olsen Chong, the parade’s chair.
Adorned with bright lights, inflated holiday figures and Santa Claus sleighs, trucker families fill the cabins, taking turns sounding the horns.
“My wife, Ronette, came up with the idea for us to participate in the parade originally and we’ll have a big turnout this year,” said Sonny Miranda, a trucker and Honokaa High School graduate who has organized the parade’s truckers group since 1997. “The kids love pulling the horn in their truck.”
Miranda was motivated to join the parade after seeing it in 1996.
“That year we came to watch and it lasted all of five minutes,” he said. “My wife and I thought, ‘These guys need help. Maybe we can add some trucks to liven it up.’ The first year we had 13 trucks and this year we’ll have over 50. Thousands of lights decorate our trucks, powered by generators.”
Independent truckers from S&R Trucking, M.W. Miranda Trucking, Bertelmann Inc., BEI Hawaii, De Rego’s Services, West Hawaii Concrete, Edwin De Luz Trucking & Gravel, KNI Trucking and Services, Zing’s Trucking and others meet at Church Row to form the line.
The parade’s grand marshal this year will be Keoki Liana, who spent 46 years in the trucking business — 27 of those working for Parker Ranch.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “My wife, Naalei, and I were so overjoyed when we got the call. I retired in 2014 and I’m 80 now and want to keep busy. We’re excited because Parker Ranch is decorating the float for us.”
The Parker Ranch fire truck will pull the float.
“It will be followed by the Parker Ranch Rig, leading the truckers,” Parker Ranch’s Senior Manager Nahua Guilloz said. “We are so excited that Keoki is being honored this year and we get to have him as part of our entry.”
For 15 years Liana decorated the giant pine tree that stands outside Parker Ranch headquarters, originally planted in 1879. During the rest of the year he hauled their cattle.
“When I was a supervisor, we would haul just over 2,000 cows to Kawaihae to ship to Canada,” Liana said. “I made my living on the highway.”
Hundreds of semis are driven on Hawaii Island on a monthly basis.
“Truckers are a big part of the island,” Miranda said. “Everything you buy in the store, or eat has to be trucked from somewhere — Hilo or Kawaihae, Kona, the piers, quarries or lumber. You name it, it’s been trucked. They’re the lifeline of the island.”
Among the most common commodities truckers haul around the island are water, food, dirt, gravel, logs, building supplies, manure, cattle and goats.
“The funniest thing I ever hauled for a client was a house for Lyman Museum, cut in half and set on trailers,” Miranda said. “It was so big that we had permits and police escorts. Going up Stainback Highway was a single-lane road so we had to build hills on both sides out of hundreds of blocks so the trucks could go above the bank.”
Truckers also support firefighters, hauling water when needed, such as the Waimea blaze that burned at least 2,000 acres owned by Parker Ranch and Hawaiian Homelands last spring.
Twenty four of the nearly 60 trucks in this year’s parade will pay homage to fallen truckers.
“Every time you see a truck get in an accident, 99 percent of the time it’s not their fault,” Miranda said. “We go through training and refresher courses every few years for the license we carry. I used to train guys to drive and I would tell them to take their time and not rush.”
Mamalahoa Highway will be closed from 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. Saturday night through the center of town for the parade.
In addition to the truckers, schools, churches, businesses, farms, ranches and community organizations will also parade down the street.
Volunteers from The Big Island Giving Tree (BIGT) also have a role in the parade following their motto, “small change to make big change.” Just before it begins, they can be found combing the crowd asking for donations for the annual BIGT Bucket Brigade. Checks, cash or gift cards from KTA, Foodland, Longs, Costco, Walmart or local gas stations are accepted and used throughout the year to help those in need.
North Hawaii Community Hospital will once again host the annual Santa float, and 10 narrator stations along the route will share entertaining details about each parade entry with the crowd.
More than 30 sponsors and event partners — from churches to schools to nonprofit organizations, businesses and the County of Hawaii — make the parade possible.
Info: Call Lani Olsen-Chong at 936-0670.