Wahiawa’s Rich Heritage
Wednesday - May 23, 2007
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Dan Nakasone, chairman of the Wahiawa Community and
Business Association, takes a stab at flipping a pineapple
at last year’s Wahiawa Pineapple Festival. Chefs Fred
DeAngelo (back left in chef’s coat) and Alan Wong (back
right, also in chef’s coat) watch the action
Pineapple fields surrounded our town when I was growing up in Wahiawa in the 1960s. Mililani did not exist, and there was no H-2 freeway to take us into Honolulu. The link to the rest of the island was Kamehameha Highway, which was just a narrow two-lane road bordered by open fields.
Wahiawa grew into existence to support the pineapple plantations, much like other small rural towns where agriculture drove the local economy. You knew practically everyone, and everyone knew you, so you had to be on your best behavior or your deeds would surely get back to your parents. My friends were multi-ethnic, which allowed me to experience different cultural traditions and wonderful ethnic foods. It was a rich childhood that I wouldn’t have traded for the world.
One Wahiawa tradition back then was that, after the age of 15, you spent the summers with your friends working in the pineapple fields. It didn’t matter where your family stood on the socio-economic ladder; we all worked the fields side by side, usually until you graduated high school. I can still hear my father saying, “You need to learn the value of a dollar.” I heard it loud and clear in my head while picking pineapples under the hot summer sun.
This place gave me so much, and Wahiawa still has a lot to offer. The small-town charm still exists today and should be appreciated by locals and visitors alike. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) recognizes this and gives financial support to regional events that showcase Hawaii’s rich heritage. The Wahiawa Pineapple Festival on May 26 will not only honor our long-standing pineapple industry, but also showcase our agricultural diversity of today.
At the Pineapple Festival, visitors can mingle and interact with local residents, while taking in great homespun entertainment, old plantation games and a wide array of local foods. The vast majority of visitors who come to Hawaii have been to the islands before and have experienced much of what Hawaii has to offer. It is events like the Wahiawa Pineapple Festival that allow visitors to experience that sense of place that will keep them coming back. Small towns help to sustain our visitor industry by showcasing what is unique to Hawaii.
A great deal of effort goes into organizing an event like the Wahiawa Pineapple Festival, and it cannot be successful without the community coming together. HTA along with corporate Hawaii, community organizations, the agricultural sector and local chefs like Wahiawa’s own Alan Wong all join in to give everyone a true slice of Hawaii.
These events can help spur the local economy by bringing in visitors as well as residents from other communities into your town. “Mom & Pop” shops still abound in small towns and offer that one-of-a-kind experience. In Wahiawa, we have the Petersons Upland Farm, which was established in 1910 and where you can still buy fresh eggs right off the farm. Seoul Inn, the first Korean restaurant in Hawaii, is still serving great Korean food today, and Dennis and Dolce Honda operate Honda Tofu, which was founded by Dennis’ grandfather in 1917. This is to name but a few, and every small town in Hawaii has them in some form or another.
So join us May 26 at Wahiawa District Park for the Pineapple Festival and experience what our small town has to offer. But please remember that we are here 365 days a year, working hard to retain that charm that has made Hawaii so special.
Next Week: Kim Arakawa, Nutrex Hawaii
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