Let Freedom Ring

Expect spectacular fireworks when U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility puts on its “Freedom Fest” display July 3.

Kaua‘i celebrates the Fourth of July with two fireworks shows — Pacific Missile Range Facility’s “Freedom Fest” July 3 and Kaua‘i Hospice’s “Concert in the Sky” July 4.

For years, two of Kaua‘i’s most popular Fourth of July celebrations have been helmed by a couple of the island’s most significant institutions.

One such organization is Kaua‘i Hospice, which was founded in 1983 by a small group of dedicated and passionate volunteers. The other, far west at Barking Sands, is U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility.

This year’s Fourth of July celebrations will mark a changing of the guard of sorts for both, with Capt. Vinnie Johnson departing as commander at PMRF and Tricia Yamashita beginning her time as the new acting executive director with Kaua‘i Hospice.

Ariel Brun and Tricia Yamashita of Kaua‘i Hospice invite the public to the nonprofit’s “Concert in the Sky” fireworks show July 4.

July 4 festivities will begin a day early, as PMRF celebrates its annual “Freedom Fest” fireworks show July 3 at its Barking Sands facility. Free to the public, gates open at 4 p.m., with the fireworks show kicking off at 9:30 p.m. The family-friendly event includes live entertainment, with food and drinks available for purchase.

PMRF’s “Freedom Fest” offers residents and visitors alike the unique opportunity to celebrate the Fourth of July at a military institution, alongside the very men and women who serve this country.

“Come celebrate the red, white and blue with the green at PMRF,” says Johnson.

Aloha Dance Studio performed at last year’s “Concert in the Sky” event.

Johnson, who has been serving as commander of PMRF for the past three years, will then transition into his new position as naval attaché in Portugal, following a short stay in Washington, D.C. The change of command is scheduled for Aug. 9, when Capt. Timothy Young will take over as the new commanding officer of PMRF.

As much as it has been an honor for Kaua‘i to have Johnson serving at PMRF, it has also been a dream assignment for the military commander.

“It has been a blessing for my family and I to call Kaua‘i home,” he says. “This is the most beautiful place we have ever lived.

“The community is made up of the most kind and warm people in the world. The culture and Hawaiian values are so positive and powerful that I have incorporated them into PMRF’s guiding principles — Pono, Mālama, ‘Ohana.”

As Johnson ends his time on Kaua‘i, Yamashita is just beginning her tenure as Kaua‘i Hospice’s new acting executive director. She has worked at the nonprofit since 2011, and was initially hired as its development liaison, responsible for fund development, marketing, communications, events and the ever-popular July 4 “Concert in the Sky.”

Over the last five years, Yamashita has served as operations director and since May has been acting executive director.

Her first interaction with Kaua‘i Hospice was assisting as a volunteer with the Fourth of July “Concert in the Sky” in 2010. She soon learned more about the organization’s work on the island, and the rest was history.

“One profound thing that I learned that resonated with me at the time was that Kaua‘i did not have a hospice house on the island,” she recalls.

For Yamashita, the lack of a hospice house was an incredibly personal revelation.

“This deeply touched my heart,” she says. “My grandmother had recently died on hospice services that year in a hospice house in Kailua on O‘ahu. One thing I was certain about was that the hospice house provided a sacred space for our ‘ohana to gather and love upon our ‘Puna’ during her end-of-life and her death. It was at that moment of realization,

that I knew I wanted to be a part of creating the legacy of a hospice house on Kaua‘i.”

Yamashita is also proud of another island legacy, as this year marks the 30th annual celebration of Kaua‘i Hospice’s “Concert in the Sky.”

The time-honored tradition will be held from 3 to 9:30 p.m. (the countdown to the fireworks show starts at 8:45 p.m.) July 4 at Vidinha Stadium soccer field. “Concert in the Sky” was started by a group of dedicated board members as a small “friend-raiser,” which has grown to become Kaua‘i Hospice’s flagship event.

At this year’s event, guests can expect live entertainment, food booths, local craft vendors, artisans and a keiki fun zone.

According to Yamashita, Kaua‘i Hospice’s “Concert in the Sky” is the island’s largest single-day family event that attracts more than 6,000 attendees each year.

“Generations have grown up gathering both at our event, and in their backyards and driveways celebrating Independence Day with the largest fireworks show on the island,” she adds.

Tickets for “Concert in the Sky” are available in advance or at the gate. Visit for more information.