Waves column: More than one way to start a festival

It was magical, Lady Godiva raring up on her horse shouting, “Let the festival begin!”

A beautiful girl in a bikini on a sparkling green horse crashing through a dinner party is something you don’t forget.


It happened in Puna, of course, where the world is not quite right with reality, especially back in the ’90s. The incident happened one evening at the jungle resort Kalani Honua, a retreat that rested like a jungly dream along the Red Road.

It had three round buildings set here and there on a giant lawn, each building had rooms centered around a big screened-in space for yoga classes, belly dancers, hippie gatherings and fire-dancers. The ’60s lingered dreamily there well into modern times.

It was the perfect laid back location for the inaugural Hawaii Poetry Festival, of which I was the head organizer. Besides being a Kona columnist, I’m a poet, and I know it, my feet show it, they’re Longfellows and smell like the Dickens. You have to forgive me for that.

Anyway, I was chosen by the local rhymers to be the director of the big poetry festival. I’d told them I met Allen Ginsberg once and it was unanimous. They all threw their beatnik berets in the air and that was it. The poetry scene was in Hilo and met Friday nights for open mic at a coffee house called Jasper’s.

I was the host introducing the poets to come up and read their poetry. They’d either bore the audience to death or have them smile in a purple haze.

We were really full of ourselves so the whole group got a wild hair to have the festival.

It was a really big deal. We rented the entire Kalani Honua. We printed posters that looked like Grateful Dead Posters, with swirly words, quill pens, and a picture of Shakespeare. The word went out to every poet, both good and bad.

They came from far and near to recite. There was one guy who thought he was Jack Kerouac and some literary profs from UH. There were big-time published poets to give workshops, and we got vagabond poet Tony Seldin, a real beat poet legend, to perform.

It was to be a weekend of workshops and poetry reading at night. We sold vacation packages, rooms, breakfasts and dinners — a real live festival was brewing.

I had to have a grand opening worthy of the occasion. So I got a real wacky idea.

There was a girl with a horse down the road where I lived. I paid her 20 bucks to be Lady Godiva and ride her horse into the dinner area on the first night of the festival and announce the beginning of the show.

She really got into it. She painted green sparkling stars all over her horse and wore a skimpy bathing suit. She had very long blond hair. She was perfect.

The dinner patio was about four feet off the grounds. On opening night, it was filled with about 50 people having dinner, suddenly into the tables this half-naked girl on a green horse pranced in and rared up shouting for the start of the festival. The horse came down, plates went crashing, people screamed and laughed as this young lady on her horse leaped off the patio and galloped into the night. The cheers were deafening.

Everyone loved it but the owner of Kalani Honua. He was not amused. The next day he lectured me about liability and lawsuits.


I said it was a small price to pay for a fun time. Oh well, another day in paradise.

Dennis Gregory writes a bimonthly column for West Hawaii Today and welcomes your comments at makewavess@yahoo.com