Roll on: 34th annual Christmas Parade to kick off holiday season

  • Trucks light up the night at the Kona Community Christmas Parade. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Reindeer Randy Ramirez pulls the sleigh at the Kona Community Christmas Parade in 2017. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Santa waves to the crowd at the Kona Community Christmas Parade last year. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Brad and Juliet Ballesteros drive the HELCO Toys for Tots Train at the Kona Community Christmas Parade last year. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The Kailua-Kona Christmas Parade isn’t just about lights and floats. It’s about kicking off the holiday season by celebrating the community.

Saturday marks 34 years businesses, residents, tourists, musical groups and schools have gathered to put on the annual tradition. This year, the event is themed, “A Storybook Christmas.” With an estimated 60 entries and approximately 1,700 participants, Renee H. Kraft, co-chairperson of the event, said out of all of Kona’s processions, the Christmas Parade is “No. 1”

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“Every stitch of it is packed with people,” Kraft said, speaking of the parade route.

The route runs from Kekuaokalani Gymnasium on Kuakini Highway and Alii Drive to Royal Kona Resort. The parade starts at 5 p.m. and the road should reopen around 7:30.

Co-chairperson Barbara Kossow said the parade is about the kids.

“Their faces just light up,” she said. “It’s just a special time of year where the families are close and it’s for the children.”

Kraft attributes the parade’s popularity to the spirit of the season.

“It’s a love for the community and a good kick off to the season,” she added.

The parade coincides with the Menehune Food Drive, which collects nonperishable food items for The Food Basket. Kossow said the drive started in 2012.

“We thought that one nonprofit, it covers everyone,” Kossow said of The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s lone food bank.

This year, the entry fee for the parade for nonprofit organizations was 40 pounds of food and commercial businesses paid $150 to enter. Fifty dollars went to the Food Basket.

Kossow said spectators are encouraged to drop off food at the announcer stations along the route. Stations are located at West Hawaii Today, Big Island Honda, Splashers Bar and Grill, YWAM Ships, Hulihee Palace, Hale Halawai and Island Lava Java.

Last year’s parade brought in 1,051 pounds of food, said Marshall Akamu, operational manager for The Food Basket in West Hawaii.

“There’s a lot of struggling families. Anyone who can help us, we appreciate the help,” Akamu said. “It’s about giving back to the community.”

Akamu added The Food Basket’s main goal is to help the public and the organization depends on the community.

“I appreciate their help during the holiday season,” he said of parade participants and spectators. “We need help during the off-season too.”

Along with nonperishable foods to donate, Kossow encourages spectators to bring flashlights with them since it gets dark earlier. There will also be larger lights set up near the end of the parade route.

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“We just need to be safe,” she added.

For more information on the parade visit: https://paradesinkona.com/.

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