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Champions celebrated

One of the last things kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin told her dancers before hitting the stage of the Merrie Monarch Festival was “Make them feel Kaua‘i.”

She followed that message in subsequent media interviews following the halau’s sweep, including winning first place in the wahine ‘auana, wahine kahiko, wahine overall and the festival’s overall honor to earn the Merrie Monarch Lokalia Montgomery Overall Award.

“This is for the community,” she said Saturday when the halau was joined by the University of Hawai‘i men’s volleyball coach Charlie Wade and the back-to-back national champions. “This is for every one who is Kaua‘i.”

Presented by the Grove Farm Company and a host of community sponsors who scrambled at the final moment to put the celebration of champions together, Grove Farm President Warren Haruki welcomed the groups to the Grove Farm Market, where the champions were met by a steady stream of admirers and fans.

“Everyone was following the two groups,” Haruki told Wade and the Rainbow Warriors. “You made it easy. You swept the championships in three sets and saved us from having to flip from channel to channel following you folks.”

Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala performers hosted a lei greeting for the champion Rainbow Warriors, and closed the autograph meet-and-greet set up to minimize close contact because of the rising COVID-19 case counts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention high-risk-community classification and its recommended guidelines.

“This is for everyone,” said Paul Zina, state Department of Education Kaua‘i Complex Area superintendent, who was at the park to accompany his daughter, who plays high school volleyball. “This is what makes this so good — it’s for everyone.”

Zina, who had been involved with the contentious state Board of Education meeting where Keith Hayashi was selected as the new state superintendent, said there are a lot of tensions created by this long period of COVID, and having the celebration of champions was a good venue for people to relieve some of the stresses.

Borrowing from comedian Frank DeLima, Haruki presented a check to the UH mens volleyball program in the amount of $22,222, representing the collective efforts of the day’s sponsors.

“This was all last-minute,” Haruki said. “The sponsors came through at the final minutes. Last year, Charlie Wade left us a gift — the NCAA championship trophy. I tried to return it to him, but he kept putting it off. This year, he forgot to bring the trophy, so we’re using that trophy in its stead. The check we presented him last year had the memo ‘Repeat.’ The one from today is memo-ed ‘3-peat!’”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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