Our town just celebrated Plantation Days, which is in memory of the old sugar days. The area's sugar plantation shutdown 20 years ago, so the memories are still fresh in the minds of many still living here.
The tractor that pulled the last load of cane to the mill was saved, and each year for the past 6, it has been used to lead the parade....
This year's grand marshall was our very own, much loved, retired policeman Bobby Gomes. I'll tell you, if all cops were like him and Dane Shibuyu (another popular local officer), the world would be a better place.
The parade featured the pa'u riders, a long standing Hawaiian tradition. When horses were introduced to Hawaii, young people took to them like hot rods. Saturday nights saw them cruising...no, I mean galloping, down main streets, to the disapproval and dismay of the local adults and church goers. (Gee, things don't change much, do they.) Decked out in yards of colorful material and leis, pa'u riders were seriously "in".
As far as I know, there's no sugar museum on Big Island, though the Lyman Museum has its & bits on display. But Darlyne Vierra maintains a vast collection of photos and artifacts pertaining to Ka'u history, including the sugar plantation days.
Most of the mill equipment is gone. Most of the plantation water system was dismantled, though some recently was repaired and put back in service for coffee growers. The sugar railroad is long gone. The sluices...gone. The buildings and shipping port, gone. The cane, almost all gone. Just a few feral plants still struggle to grow along the roadside and no one knows which variety they are. The field system, gone. The camps and camp houses, mostly gone. Some still exist and are in use as personal residences in Pahala and Naalehu. But the other camps are all gone. The plantation stores and support shops, mostly gone. A few buildings still exist but most were moved or torn down. The plantation theater in Pahala was torn down. The one in Naalehu is just about ready for demolition. Yes, evidence of the vast sugar plantation is rapidly disappearing. Except for the photos and papers that Darlyne protects.
Plantation Days is a way for the old sugar workers to reconnect with the memories. It's a bit of history the hopefully won't be totally forgotten. Not that anyone wants to return to the plantation system, but a lot of people lost jobs when the sugar mill closed down. There's not many jobs available anymore in Ka'u.