Koloa Plantation Days Festival History
Koloa plantation was founded in 1835, the first in the islands. The birth of the sugar industry shaped the lives of everyone in Hawaii forever. Although the mill and fields are idle in Koloa and virtually all of the state, many people in Hawaii are former workers or descendants of plantation workers who came from many lands. Koloa Plantation Days brings people to Koloa and Poipu on Kauai’s south shore to celebrate aspects of the plantation lifestyle that we are still connected to.
In 1985, as part of the celebration of sugar’s sesquicentennial (150 years), a luau and a few other events were held in Koloa. Phyllis Kunimura, a Koloa community leader and wife of Mayor Tony Kunimura, heard many people remarking that they really enjoyed getting together at the luau. The next year, Phyllis and Mayor Kunimura, asked the organizers of the 1985 events if they were willing to host similar gatherings again. They were willing, and a successful celebration came together.
Celebrating Plantation Life
Almost every year since then, Phyllis and a core group of dedicated volunteers have nurtured and organized Koloa Plantation Days, insuring that the events are family-oriented, fun and reflective of the plantation lifestyle that no longer exists. Annually, the committee selects themes, such as education, family reunions, health care, foods and cooking, and music, that were important facets of plantation life. The parade units and other events do their best to express those themes.
A highlight of the parade and town celebration for many years was to have “Paulo”, a steam locomotive displayed by Grove Farm Homestead, brought to Koloa and fired up to blow its whistle — a sound that echoed through the islands when cane was hauled by trains to the mills. Displays of field equipment, clothing, lamps and other items of everyday camp life, photos, and other artifacts are often assembled.
Sharing our Heritage
Now that visitors and related businesses are the livelihood of Koloa and other former plantation towns throughout Hawaii, Koloa Plantation Days offers events that entertain and that also educate participants about old Hawaii and the plantation days. Hawaiian games, historic videos, guided walks, cooking demonstrations, and historic displays throughout Koloa are a few of these entertaining and enlightening opportunities to get families involved in Koloa’s heritage.
The steering committee and the whole south shore of Kauai open their collective arms and hearts to visitors and residents, so that all will enjoy Koloa Plantation Days.