Gridlock in Haiku. Bumper to bumper, stop and go in both directions on Hana Highway.
What was happening last Saturday morning? A new apocalypse movie? Instant urbanization comes to the north coast? Another incoming missile alert?
Actually, it was the Haiku Ho‘olaule‘a & Flower Festival.
Returning for its 25th year, this is one of those Old Maui experiences that keep getting harder to find in new Maui. A fundraiser for Haiku Elementary School, it combines generic elements found in many other community events: a farmers market; a concert stage; orchid tents; lei-making and do-it-yourself art projects; craft booths; African drummers; kid games and rides; history displays; food trucks . . . but still winds up feeling like it could only be happening in Haiku.
Maybe it’s the rain. Elsewhere, rain is a spoiler. In Haiku, it’s an inevitability. When it starts really coming down hard, you just find an eve to stand under and listen to the drumming on the roof. As ancient Hawaii knew so well, rain is a blessing.
State Sen. J. Kalani English appreciated “keeping Haiku the way we like it — wet and green and growing.”
The growing things included lots of kids, doing everything from making lei to riding around in inflatable plastic bubbles. The keiki are, after all, what the day is for, and it was a treat to share their unique learning environment with them for a while, indoors and out.
Tim Wolfe, ably emceeing the entertainment stage, told the audience that his daughter Danielle had been a Haiku student after the family moved to Maui in the 1980s. It was where she told him “she learned to love to learn.” Now, two master’s degrees later, she is executive director of an international educational foundation.
Tim credited the “polyglot neighborhoods” in their lush jungle settings against panoramic coastal backgrounds as solid foundations for families to put down good solid roots.
Teaching kids in all grades to do that literally is the school’s gardening director, who’s known as Miss Moonflower. She teaches “life science through life experience,” she said with a bright smile.
Through the morning I run into friends. Laura Nagel Lees with her two daughters, just starting their Haiku school days; and Larry Feinberg, whose grown daughter Arianna and her friend Lauren Shearer are stringing lei nearby. Katie Romanchuk scurries through the craft tent. Outside, Nathan Ehrlich — better known as Dr. Nat — waits to take the stage with his band, Rio Ritmo, following an awesome set by the King Kekaulike High School Jazz Band, directed by Casey Nagata.
Schools are, by their nature, time capsules. Decades of class pictures and other memories fill shelves in the school library, which today is home to the Haiku Living Legacy Project.
Inside, I meet Mack Blair, who was the Haiku school librarian in this space for six years. That’s only one chapter in the great stories he shares, making good on that Living Legacy sign outside the door.
He points to a black-and-white photo of himself 25 years ago, when he started the first Haiku Ho‘olaule‘a & Flower Festival with the other guy in the photo, the late Ed Silverstein.
We engage in the kind of talk story that happens when gray-haired guys who arrived here when Maui was still an adventure, meet for the first time and realize they’ve got a lot of the same friends. Talk story is the haole equivalent of ancient Hawaiians chanting their genealogies when they met. It’s a fine art out here in the flowers and the jungle, where spiritual author Ram Dass and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet William Merwin are neighbors in the ‘hood.
Many things grow healthy and strong in the warm rains of Haiku. It’s easy to mistake this place for paradise, I thought, watching families from keiki to kupuna happily heading home, most with plants in their hands.
Speaking of members of the King Kekaulike jazz ensemble, they got a visit recently from Grammy winner Delfeayo Marsalis, who led a four-hour rehearsal prior to performing with them at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Part of New Orleans’ jazz royalty, Marsalis also stopped by for dinner at the north-shore home of award-winning filmmaker and festival producer Ken Martinez Burgmaier, who first brought him to play at jazz and blues festivals throughout Hawaii eight years ago.
Ken just finished work on HawaiiONTV coverage of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s 2018 Celebration of the Arts, featured in this column two weeks ago. People who attended will enjoy reliving the video immersion in things Hawaiian; for people who missed it, the segment is almost as good as having been there, plus you can keep replaying it at youtu.be/SdqhkdG3u3c.