Honoka‘a Western Week rides again: Celebration of paniolo heritage kicks off May 22

  • Honoka‘a Western Week will hold the inaugural Invitational Saloon Girls and Cowboys Got Talent Show during this year’s festivities. Contestants have already been signed up, and are rehearsing their performances for the judges and cameras. The show will be pre-recorded, and posted as a free presentation at 7 p.m. May 22. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

What started in the 1940s as “Rodeo Days” has grown into a weeklong celebration of paniolo heritage, during Honoka‘a Western Week, set for May 22 to 31. And, although the large gatherings won’t be happening due to public health restrictions, the 70-plus year tradition is alive and well.

“Back in the day, the Andrade Hotel would fill up with visiting cowboys, sometimes eight or nine to a room,” says Honoka‘a Western Week chair Michelle Hartman. “Restaurants and bars were busy, and spirits were high all around. The celebration grew year after year, and today’s Honokaa Western Week gives everybody — men, women and children — a chance to kick up their heels and release their inner paniolo, even if some of it is online this year.”


The scaled-back festivities still celebrate the town’s, and the island’s, paniolo heritage, with food, music, storytelling, keiki activities, and more.

Throughout the month of May, visitors to Honoka‘a will see shops, restaurants and other businesses decorated paniolo style, and many establishments will offer discounts and specials to those sporting Honoka‘a Western Week T-shirts and buttons from years past. A fun series of “photostops” designed and painted by local artists along Mamane Street invite strollers to pose for selfies or photos with their friends, and the new Honoka‘a Heritage Center in the Botelho Building will highlight a special Paniolo Exhibit in their front windows.

On May 22, entries open for a new event, the Best Dressed Western Costume Contest. This is an online costume contest open to all, so women, men, keiki, families, even pets are encouraged to dress up in their best paniolo duds, take a photo, and email to HWWCostume@gmail.com, or post on the HonokaaWesternWeek Facebook Page and use the hashtag #HonokaaWesternWeek.

Judges will award prizes for the Most Creative and Best Overall entries on May 31. All winners receive a custom-cut Western Week T-shirt, and the Best Overall also receives a one-hour photo shoot with photographer Evan Bordessa.

There will also be a Most Popular winner, and how-to-vote details will be posted on Facebook. And, because what is a costume contest without moseying down the cat walk, ALL contestants are invited to be in the Runway Show during Hamakua Harvest Farm Day at 1 p.m. May 23.

Also on May 22, bidding opens for the online Silent Auction fundraiser. Items are available to view before bidding opens, at https://honokaa.cbo.io. Bidding closes May 31.

What about the Saloon Girls? HWW is very excited to announce that the first-ever Invitational Saloon Girls and Cowboys Got Talent Show will be broadcast on Kahilu.TV. Contestants have already been signed up, and are rehearsing their performances for the judges and cameras. The show will be pre-recorded, and posted as a free presentation at 7 p.m. May 22. Winners will receive cash prizes, an interview with Big Island Music Magazine, and a chance to record their own concert for Kahilu.TV.


Other happenings include a Cowboy Talk Story and Honoka‘a Western Week Movie on Kahilu.TV (May 26 at 5 p.m.), Paniolo Craft Kits and Online Instruction Video by the Hamakua Youth Center, and Western Week Coloring Pages by Friends of the Honoka‘a Public Library.

For more information, follow Honoka‘a Western Week on Facebook or visit www.honokaawesternweek.org.

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