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Christmas comes to Kauai

Thousands of Kauai residents and visitors lined up along Rice Street on Friday evening for annual Lights on Rice Parade.

Nyleiah Pedro, 6, sat alongside her three sisters — Nekeyla, 10, Nekaila, 13, and Nekaia, 14 — in a row of chairs, watching the rain near the intersection of Rice and Hardy Street.

They showed up hours before the parade began in order to get the spot. Nyleiah wore a headband with red reindeer antlers on top and said the weather didn’t bother her at all. When asked what she would do if it was still raining when the parade started and Santa got wet, she said, “I’ll save him!”

Nyleiah said was most excited about two floats: “the Santa one that blows out snow” and “the princess float,” which she saw last year, featuring Cinderella and characters from the movie “Frozen.”

She expects to get all 26 items on her wish list on Christmas, including clothes for her Barbies, clothes for herself and an iPhone 6. Her mother, sitting on a curb nearby, looked less certain.

Windee Lou Martin said she hasn’t been to the parade in years but decided to come watch Lights on Rice when her friend and next door neighbor, Carol Hernandez, invited her.

“We live right here, so it’s really easy,” Hernandez said, pointing over her shoulder in the direction of Kaniko‘o Rice Camp, an affordable housing community for senior citizens. Hernandez has been attending the parade regularly since she moved in a few years back and said, “every year it has gotten better and better.”

Kaesen Tam-Ventura, 8, ran around in the middle of Rice Street with his friends an hour before the parade. Lihue’s main thoroughfare, normally choked with cars and trucks, was empty for a mile in each direction.

“I like it because there’s so much lights,” Kaesen said, when asked what he liked most about the parade. He said he was looking forward to one float in particular: “The one like where Santa’s in the shower.”

That float was also a favorite of Issac Gonzalves, 7. He came to Lights on Rice with his twin sister, Toby, who said she was going to get a scooter for Christmas.

Lehua Pia, 10, who had just arrived with her family, said she was looking forward to her school represented in the parade. She’s in fifth grade at Kawaikini Public Charter School in Puhi and said the performers on her school’s float sing Hawaiian Christmas songs like “Mele Kalikimaka” and another one about Santa Claus, who says, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Aloha!”

Her classmate, Gabby Mendez, 9, said her favorite float last year was “the one with all the lights” and “the one with a boat in the middle.”

“We thought we came from the only place where the weather could change by the minute,” said Laurie Koenig, sitting next to her husband Bill. She looked out at the pouring rain from her seat under the awning at Kauai Beer Company an hour before the parade was set to start.

“The weather has been so unpredictable, but that’s not going to stop us,” she said. “We love it here.”

Laurie and Bill are visiting the island from their home in Calgary, Canada and said Lights on Rice reminded them of their own parade back home, the Calgary Stampede, which attracts over a million people from all over the world.

Kauai’s annual parade isn’t quite as large, but it is growing. This year’s parade featured 60 floats and 3,000 performers, according to event sponsors.

A minute or two after 6:30 p.m., somebody near the intersection of Rice and Hardy Street said, “Oh. They’re coming.”

Lights came into view as old hot rod cars pulled onto the road and revved their engines. A giant truck sparkling from the wheels to the roof in a rainbow of lights followed behind a troop of marching JROTC cadets. Aunties passed out candy canes to the kids along the street.

Christmas came to Kauai.

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Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cloehrer@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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