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Lighting up the night: Celebration of Life changes location, adds events

Hawaii Care Choices’ annual Celebration of Life event will be bigger than ever before when it returns for its 15th year.

“The scale and scope of this event is probably five times the size of what we’ve had the past 14 years,” Community relations manager Lani Weigert said.

The free event is open to the community and is set for 3:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday at Reeds Bay beach, a new location from years past.

Weigert said the change was made to accommodate those who wish to release their own memorial lanterns and were unable to do so when the event was held at Wailoa River State Recreation Area. The lanterns are released in honor of deceased loved ones.

A Mobi-Mat, provided by the county, will roll from the sidewalk to the ocean to allow safe access for people to release their lanterns, she said, including those in wheelchairs and walkers.

The new location isn’t the only change guests can expect.

A motorcycle and classic car run has been added to the itinerary, as have music and dance performances, food, keiki activities and more.

Meeting at Reeds Bay around noon, Weigert said those with classic cars and motorcycles will ride to Ka‘u Hospital, where they “want to have all their motorcycles and classic cars on display for the patients, staff and community to enjoy.”

They’ll arrive back at Reeds Bay that afternoon “like the Pied Pipers of the event, because they’ll come in just about the beginning of our program,” she said.

The program opens at 3:30 p.m with a chant led by Aunty Aloha Bezilla.

Civil Air Patrol LFC Squadron will do color guard duty, and Keaukaha kupuna hula halau, Halau O Kawanakoa, will perform with Ben Kaili.

“After that, we will enjoy the songs of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s with the Ol’ School Band,” Weigert said.

The Hilo Bon Dance Club, joined by the Tsukikage Odori Kai Dancers, will then do “popular bon dance songs,” along with K-pop, J-pop and line dances, she said.

There will also be food trucks, andagi doughnuts, shave ice and more.

Weigert said a “Light of Remembrance” procession will happen around 6:45 p.m. where participants will line up along Banyan Drive with their lit lanterns.

Following a interfaith prayer led by Buddhist priest Junshin Miyazaki, Catholic priest Father Poli Ty and Rabbi Rachel Short, kumu Bradford Lum will bless the lead lantern canoe and lead a chant.

Weigert said for the first time, a miniature double-hull canoe made especially for the event will “lead the lanterns out to sea.”

“We felt it was time to re-imagine the event so that we could engage more people that have never been to it,” Weigert said. “We wanted to create an event that felt very inclusive and welcoming, where people all over the community at large see and feel this as a community asset, something that belongs to the community. It’s simply run by Hawaii Care Choices, but it really does belong to the community.”

Parking will be at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, and a free shuttle to Reeds Bay will be provided from 2:30-8:30 p.m.

Luminaries can be ordered online at for $25. Bon dance towels can be purchased for $5, and glow-in-the-dark event bracelets are available for $10.

The event is open to the community and to people of all ages.

Email Stephanie Salmons at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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