Parker Ranch Saddles Up for Year of The Paniolo

Hawaiian cowboys honored at Fourth of July and centennial celebrations

By: Dawna L. Robertson

Showcasing the important role that the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) has played in maintaining and restoring native Hawaiian traditions and culture, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle signed a proclamation late last year citing 2008 as Year of the Paniolo.

The proclamation recognizes the significance of 2008 as the centennial of a stunning rodeo win by a Hawaiian cowboy at the 1908 Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. At a time when few people even knew paniolo existed, Hawaii’s Ikua Purdy entered the celebrated Wyoming rodeo. To the surprise of the American West, he won the national roping competition.

Purdy and his fellow Hawaiian cowboys, Archie Kaaua and Jack Low, put Hawaii on the map for the ranching world. To commemorate his win and expertise, Purdy was recently inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame.

The organization spearheading the centennial fete in Hawaii is the Paniolo Preservation Society (PPS), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the paniolo tradition as an integral part of the history of Hawaii and the American West. A delegation representing Hawaii’s ranching industry will visit Cheyenne in July for the 2008 Frontier Days, bringing Hawaii’s unique paniolo culture to the festivities. A reciprocal visit to Waimea will be made by a Cheyenne delegation for the Great Waiomina Centennial Celebration on the Big Island in August. Waiomina is the Hawaiian word for Wyoming.

An additional honor for Hawaii paniolo in 2008 was the induction of John Palmer Parker, founder of historic Parker Ranch in Waimea, into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum’s Hall of Great Westerners. This took place during the Oklahoma City museum’s annual Western Heritage Awards gala in April.

The 150,000-acre Parker Ranch will join in the statewide celebration of the Year of the Paniolo during its 46th Annual Independence Day Rodeo and Horse Races on Friday, July 4 at the Parker Ranch Rodeo Arena.

The action begins at 9 a.m. with a grand entry parade and continues non-stop until noon. Featuring Parker Ranch cowboys joined by paniolo from ranches all around the Big Island, the line-up of rodeo events is full of excitement. Spectators will enjoy horse-racing, team sorting, double mugging and team roping.

July 4 rodeo tickets are $5 per person in advance or $6 at the gate. Children ages 10 and under are admitted free of charge. Presale begins June 1 in the Parker Ranch Store at the Parker Ranch Center. Situated between the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea volcano, the rodeo grounds are 37 miles by car from Kona International Airport and 57 miles from Hilo Airport on Highway 190.

During The Great Waiomina Centennial Celebration in Waimea, the following paniolo festivities will take place from Aug. 16 Sept. 1. All events are open to the public.

Saturday, Aug. 16

Pau (horseback) Demonstration at Anna Ranch, 10 a.m. to noon (no admission)
A celebration of the history and protocol of pau riding with demonstrations of pau wrapping.
Real Beef by Real Cowboys at Anna Ranch, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (admission)
A paniolo cookout featuring meat preparations unique to Hawaii. Planned by the Hawaii Cattleman's Association.

Friday, Aug. 22

Cocktail Reception at Anna Ranch, 6 p.m. to 9 pm (admission)
The celebration’s opening event commemorates the actual day that Ikua Purdy shocked the western world with his unprecedented win. Limited public participation.

Saturday, Aug. 23

Craft Fair at Parker Ranch and Waimea shopping centers, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (no admission)
Featuring island-style arts and crafts by local artisans.

Old Hawaii on Horseback at Minukeole Park (YMCA Lawn), 10 a.m. to noon (admission)
A costumed reenactment of key Hawaiian historical events created by Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske, a Waimea ranch owner and cowgirl who raced and roped with the best of the cowboys. Today, it’s one of the largest fundraisers for the American Heart Association in the United States.

Horse Races and Hawaiian Cowboy-Style Concert at Paniolo Park (Parker Ranch Rodeo Grounds)
Horse Races 4 p.m. to 5:30 pm; Concert 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (admission)
The concert features top local entertainers including Melveen Leed and Jerry Santos, with songs written to celebrate the 1908 event as well as other paniolo and Hawaiian tunes.

Sunday, Aug. 24

Trail Ride, Paniolo Stew Cook-Off and BBQ Dinner at Kahua Ranch
Trail Ride and Ranch Activities 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Barbecue and Entertainment 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (admission)
A day on a Hawaii ranch with a choice of horseback trail rides, ranch activities, wagon rides, ranch tours and various cultural activities followed by a barbecue dinner and entertainment. Limited public participation.

Friday, Aug. 29

Paniolo Paina at Pukalani Stables, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (admission)
An authentic paniolo paina (feast) to celebrate the Hawaiian cowboy. Performances by local hula halau (schools).

Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 30 and 31

Parker Ranch Labor Day Rodeo at Paniolo Park (Parker Ranch Rodeo Arena). Time/Admission TBD
Organized by the ranch cowboys and their families, this scholarship fundraiser benefits keiki (children).

Saturday, Aug. 30

An Evening at Puuopelu, 5 to 10 pm (admission)
A formal dinner/fundraiser for the Paniolo Preservation Society held at the historic home of the late Richard Smart, the last owner of Parker Ranch. Entertainment by pianist Jay Larrin. Silent and live auction.

Monday, Sept. 1

Brunch and Fashion Show honoring Cowgirls of the Pacific, at Daniel Thiebaut Restaurant, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (admission)
First annual event featuring local designers sharing their best paniolo attire during a saucy fashion show with charming cowboys and cowgirls.