Thought 100 was big? Honokaa High gets ready for 130th anniversary bash in July

  • “Decades of Dragons” — From left: Daisy Ikeuchi, Class of 1946; Roland Kaneshiro, Class of 1957; Milo Ferreira, Class of 1962; Sammie Pung, Class of 1976; Johnalyn Margheim, Class of 1987; Lane Guzman, Class of 1993; Mahina Hoepner, Class of 2005; and Falyn Sebastian, Class of 2019 stand on the steps of Honokaa High School Building A, which was built in 1923. (Courtesy photo/Sarah Anderson)

HONOKAA — Dragons pride will be on full display — and on parade — the third weekend of July in Honokaa.

The picturesque former sugar plantation town on the Hamakua Coast will celebrate the 130th anniversary of Honokaa High and Intermediate School July 19-21.

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The co-chairs of the alcohol- and drug-free event, Dominic Yagong, class of 1977, and Maelan Abran, class of 1998, are calling all Dragons, near and far, to come home and celebrate.

“People have called and asked, ‘Is this only for the graduates?’ Absolutely not,” asserted Yagong, an account executive for Associa Hawaii and former Hawaii County Council chairman and public address announcer “Voice of the Dragons,” who was a two-year starting varsity quarterback.

“Everyone is welcome to attend,” he said. “We have so many friends and family of people who are associated with Honokaa School, but we want everyone to feel that they are welcomed to this event. When you look at our 100th anniversary, 30 years ago, it was an islandwide and statewide event that everyone showed up for. We want to make sure that everyone shows up this time around, as well.”

‘DRAGONS FOR LIFE’

Among the “everyone” who showed up for the school’s centennial in 1989 was John Waihee, Hawaii’s governor at the time and a proud Dragon.

“I think it’s going to be pretty huge. We consider ourselves Dragons for life,” said Abran, a radio personality at K-BIG FM in Hilo and a singer-songwriter who is on the bill for the free block party Friday evening, July 19, on Mamane Street, the main drag through downtown Honokaa.

Abran is sharing the bill with, among others: R.J. Kaneao, Mark Saito, Ryan Hiraoka, Preston Lee, Omi DeJesus, Kennie Lee Bender, Bulla Kanekoa, Donny B, David Yagong and Lazaro Joaquin.

Abran, like most of the musicians who’ll play on four stages — featuring rock, reggae, blues, jazz, Hawaiian and contemporary music — is a product of the high school’s Honokaa Jazz Band. The band, under the direction of Gary Washburn, has received recognition in 2008 by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation for outstanding music education and as a Grammy Signature Schools Award in 2011.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today in my life with my music if Honokaa School didn’t have Mr. Washburn and his music program,” Abran said. “You know, the opportunity he gives to students from a small little town in Hawaii is huge. To be able to perform and learn what it’s like to be a musician and performer, that’s something that helped me grow.”

The Honokaa Jazz Band’s 2018 CD “Playin’ in Traffic” is nominated for Na Hoku Hanohano Jazz Album of the Year — yet another accolade for high schoolers who have shared the stage with national music acts such as blues legends Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball and Johnny Nicholas.

The road will be closed to accommodate the block party — which will also feature comedian Augie T performing two free shows, plus hula, Zumba, line dancing, martial arts demonstrations, aerial silk dancing, bouncy devices for the keiki and food and craft vendors — from 5-9 p.m. that night.

BRING ON THE PARADE

Mamane Street will again be the center of Dragons Nation the following morning as the event’s historic “Green and Gold Forever!” parade will wend its way through downtown starting at 10 a.m. and ending at the Honokaa High School campus.

There are multiple grand marshals for the event — all former Honokaa principals.

“We do know from the ‘70s, all of the principals since Jerry Sakamoto was principal in 1977 are all still alive since and some are still working. We are reaching out to families of those who have passed, and we would be so honored if the family members would be there to represent them,” Yagong said. “In addition, we really want to honor any teacher who has taught at Honokaa school from kindergarten up to 12th grade at the event, as well. We’re encouraging them to contact us through our gmail account (honokaahigh130@gmail.com). When you think about it, the administrators and the teachers, they’ve dedicated their lives to the betterment of our students. And we hold them in such high regard that we want to honor them.”

In keeping with the theme and recognition of generations, there will also be a pair of “grand-grand marshals” — Florence Botelho and Mitsue Hino, both from the Class of 1938, the first high school graduating class.

“Even if they’re not going to be there, they’re going to be our grand-grand marshals,” Yagong said. “Florence Botelho is in a home in Hilo and won’t be there, but we want to acknowledge her. The one we’re hoping will be there is Mitsue Hino. Both she and Florence participated 30 years ago in the 1ooth year celebration. They marched in the parade. We’re hoping we can get Mrs. Hino to be a part of the parade.”

The parade will lead in to an all-day celebration into the night at the campus with awards, presentations, musical entertainment, games for the keiki, demonstrations, food booths and craft vendors. The construction of a 1,000-seat covered bleachers should be completed before the event, but alumni are urged to bring folding chairs, just in case.

Forever Dragons also will have the opportunity to walk the hallways of Building A, which was built in 1935, and meet up with classmates, friends and teachers to reminisce.

“I can’t wait to see all my friends from high school as well as going through the halls and seeing what the school is like now,” Abran said. “I think a lot of people are looking forward to stepping back in time, in a way, reliving those memories, me and my fellow Dragons.”

‘CHICKEN SKIN MOMENT’

At 4-6 p.m. there will be a luau prepared by Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort &Spa Executive Chef Jayson Kanekoa, a Honokaa High Class of 1984 alum, at the school cafeteria.

“We’re going to have a luau performance of Hawaiian music. Most of the tickets are pre-sale. We’re only going to allow 100 luau tickets to be sold at the door, so we’re asking people to sell their tickets right away,” Yagong said.

Tickets are $15 pre-sale and $20 at the door.

The evening program will be 7-10 p.m. at the Honokaa High football field.

“We have a group of alumni cheerleaders who are going to do cheers for us and lead us in our alma mater. That’s a chicken skin moment that we’re waiting for,” Yagong said. “To have the whole school, the decades of Dragons standing in unison and singing the alma mater, when we light the letters, right before the aerial fireworks — I think that’s going to be a moment that people take home with them.”

Sunday, July 21, will be a day reserved for family fun and class reunions. The committee is working on a list of activities for alumni to enjoy.

All classes are urged to participate in the parade and family day. Email honokaahigh130@gmail.com or go online to honokaahigh.eventleap.com to download registration forms or for more information. The website can also be used to download order forms for souvenir T-shirts and booklets, pre-sale luau tickets, parade registration and donation forms to help the volunteer organizing committee defray expenses for the event. Any leftover funds will be donated to Honokaa High School.

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Checks and money orders for luau tickets, T-shirts and booklets and donations can be made out to HHS 130 to HHS 130, P.O. Box 875, Honokaa, HI 96727.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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