KAILUA-KONA — Christmas isn’t quite Christmas without the traditions.
There’s trimming the tree, for example, and decorating the house.
And in Kona, there’s the annual Kailua-Kona Community Christmas Parade, which brings out people of all ages to catch the lights, music and, of course, a glimpse of Santa.
Saturday’s parade marked the 33rd annual Kailua-Kona Community Christmas Parade, attracting dozens of entries from local businesses, civic organizations, school groups, nonprofits and more.
But even before the parade got underway, folks were lining the parade route, staking out their spots for the evening’s event.
Mert Graveley and Nita Chatfield said they arrived at their spot in front of the West Hawaii Today building at about 1:30 Saturday afternoon.
They’ve been coming to the parade for years.
“And we always sit right here,” Graveley said.
Chatfield said the nature of the parade makes it one that people of all ages can enjoy.
“It’s kid-friendly, this parade,” she said. “It’s so kid-friendly.”
She added those marching in the parade do a great job of making sure the kids watching the parade feel included, not only by giving them candy but also by looking at them, making eye contact and offering a “Merry Christmas.”
Not far down the road, Laurel and Danny Haserot were awaiting the start of the parade with their kids.
Laurel Haserot, a second-grade teacher at Kealakehe Elementary School, said she sees a lot of her students in the parade, and it’s fun for her to see everyone taking part in their different clubs and extracurricular activities.
“And it’s just, everybody’s happy,” she said. “It’s a good Christmas spirit.”
Meanwhile, Nancy Bloomfield and others with Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii were preparing to march down the parade route with their miniature horses, Peaches and Calypso.
“It’s just fun to get out in the community and get people to know who we are and share in all the holiday fun,” said Bloomfield, the organization’s program director.
Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii has taken part in the parade for the past 10 years and has been in existence for 12.
The miniature horses are part of the organization’s outreach program, she said. The organization’s main focus is a mounted program for kids and adults with special needs.
Bloomfield said kids’ eyes light up when they see the miniature horses along the route.
“They’re not intimidating like big horses,” she said, “so we can go right up to kids in strollers and they can pet the minis,” she said.
The parade is also a chance for the organization to raise awareness within the community for themselves.
Kenny Nakashima, who was watching the parade with his wife and kids, said they’ve come to the parade since as long as they’ve had it.
And with the the lights, atmosphere and the way the whole community gets involved, he likes it all. And the kids always look forward to it.
“And every year they change it up,” he said. “They get creative. It’s not the same old parade every time.”
As he spoke, a girl from the Japanese Social Club of Kona ran up to give him a paper ornament.
“See? Look at this; you see what I mean?” he said with a laugh. “That’s cool, yeah?”
Back toward Kekuaokalani Gymnasium, Kailua-Kona resident Anastasiya Gomes was watching the parade with her three kids and baby sister.
She said she’s been coming out to the parade for the last 17 years.
And her favorite part?
“All the fun, the lights, the music, everything,” she said as a float carrying Santa, who wore an aloha shirt and stood in front of a canoe, started to make its way down Kuakini Highway. “It makes you feel like a child.”