Roping, Riding, Running In Koloa

The 13th Annual Koloa Plantation Days kicks off Friday with a paniolo barbecue and bull-riding showdown.

“The cowboys and cow-girls are a close-knit community in Hawai`i,” says Joyce Miranda, owner of CJM Stables near Maha’ulepu Beach. “There will be 150 rodeo participants ranging in age from 7 to 70, about 40 of them will be coming from other islands.”

Miranda and her husband Jimmy, who worked at a plantation ranch on the Big Island, will be hosting the three-day rodeo beginning July 20. Competitions include double mugging, American west barrel racing, and po’o wai u, a cattle wrangling technique developed by Hawaiian paniolos.

“All of the old plantations had their own ranches,” says Miranda. “They had their own dairies, they provided meat, and employees had the right to have a garden.”

Multi-ethnic groups who came to Hawai`i between the mid-1800s and the 1940s to work as plantation laborers lived in “camps” divided by nationality. There were Hawaiian camps, as well as Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese and Korean. These emigrants shaped Hawai`i’s cuisine by sharing their food at lunch.

“The plantation had a lot to teach us about different cultures, and getting along,” says event coordinator Melissa McFerrin. “One of the things people enjoy about Hawai`i is how diverse it is. It’s not just a beautiful landscape, it’s the people that make the destination.”

The paniolo barbecue was created by Kalapaki Joe’s executive chef Andy Althouse. “We’re working with local farmers because we’re doing heritage-style food,” says Kalapaki Joe’s owner Jody Valente. “People will be able to try different types of paniolo-style dishes.”

Kaneshiro Farms pork will be used in the Hawaiian kalua pig plate with lomi lomi salmon, steamed rice and mac salad. You can also get pulled pork or huli huli chicken sliders with coleslaw; huli huli chicken thighs with lomi lomi salmon, steamed rice and mac salad; or grilled fish tacos.

Kona Brewing and Bud Light will sponsor the beer garden and beverage area. Live music and activities include face painting, story telling and s’mores.

“For many people, this festival evokes memories of a time gone by,” says McFerrin. “It’s a big part of our culture in the Islands.

Besides rodeo competitions throughout the 10-day family festival, there is a free guided walk on the historic Hapa trail, a Makawehi Sand Dune hike, Maha`ulepu coastal hike, and a historic walk through Koloa Town. Children can participate in traditional Hawaiian games, as well as delight in the free Polynesian Revue and fire dancing.

“On Monday (July 23) night, we have a historic film and exhibit at The Shops at Kukui`ula,” says McFerrin. “The exhibit will feature plantation era photography, and before that, Merriman’s will do a cooking demonstration featuring plantation treats.”

Keoki’s Paradise will feature a menu designed around the different immigrant groups July 26. The five-course meal will be paired with wine, and includes Japanese tempura rolls, Filipino long bean and eggplant salad, Chinese skin-on fresh catch, and Hawaiian loco moco. A Koloa Spiced Rum chocolate cake baked in a mason jar with a butterscotch drizzle is dessert.

“Koloa Plantation Days celebrates all the different aspects of plantation life,” says McFerrin. “It brings people together through music, food, games and the environment of Koloa.”

For a schedule of events visit: