Friday, December 6, 2002



It's that time of year again. Gather the family and head downtown for the annual tree lighting ceremony tomorrow.

City lights
brighten everyone


By Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

Each morning, without fail, Carol Costa wakes up with a big sigh. "I realize what's on my shoulders for that day," says the director of the city's grand Honolulu City Lights spectacle. "You just have to muster up, come on in and be here because you've got to provide the support to everybody else supporting you."

For nearly 20 years, in addition to her usual duties as Department of Customer Services director and press secretary to Mayor Jeremy Harris, Costa has had the unenviable task of overseeing every detail of the city's largest and most visible outdoor project.

Honolulu City Lights

Where: Honolulu Hale
When: Begins 3 p.m. tomorrow, with tree lighting ceremony beginning at 6 p.m.
Admission: Free
Call: 523-2489

Each day leading up to the monthlong event brings hazards that test her problem-solving skills. Just days ago, there was a lighting glitch in the City's municipal building. Last year, organizers overlooked an automated sprinkler system and surprised early spectators with an unnatural rain. "It's a thousand small details. It's amazing how much you have to store in your head at all times."

Honolulu City Lights was initiated in 1985 by former Mayor Frank Fasi, who asked that a Christmas tree be erected in front of Honolulu Hale. Costa was brought in the following year to help enliven the downtown area, which, in decades past, had been adorned with a popular display of Christmas lights and garlands. The project expanded by several blocks each year, with longer parade routes and a growing exhibition of decorated trees, lights and giant holiday icons. This year's Honolulu City Lights parade begins at Aala Park (they've outgrown their previous starting point at the Board of Water Supply), and covers roughly two miles of Christmas displays along King and Beretania streets.

Planning begins in April as Costa and a core group, which includes Sheri Kajiwara and Carl Silva of the Neighborhood Commission Office, Alex Ching, an expert craftsman with the City's Parks Department and designer Owen Ho meet with the Friends of Honolulu City Lights to discuss concepts and sponsorships.

Particularly over the past three weeks, as organizers, volunteers and laborers have put in long hours, working at an accelerated pace for tomorrow's deadline. "You set aside your personal life because you've got to keep it going," Costa says.

Even after this weekend's festivities, Costa and company must guard the oversize sculptures. In addition to keeping the displays presentable, those entrusted with the task must watch for bad weather, wind and those pesky chance mishaps. "There is no real letup for our core group until it comes down on Jan. 6," Costa said. "We want it to look as nice for somebody that comes to see it on Dec. 24 as it is when they come to see it on opening night."

As testament to its popularity, Honolulu City Lights has not only survived several City administrations, but flourished each successive year. It's become such a fixture in Honolulu that many Oahu residents cannot imagine the holidays without it.

"It's not something that you could ever stop doing," Costa said. "We have more than 50,000 people that come down on opening night to share that moment. For me, when the tree goes on and you hear that 'aaaah,' that's when I know we've done good."



>> 3 to 5:30 p.m. >> Food booths open to the public. A KCCN-FM100 stage will feature DJs Billy V., Charly and Pipi with contests and prizes, with Native Blend performing at 3 p.m., Sani at 3:50 p.m. and Keahiwai at 4:45p.m.

>> 6 to 6:30 p.m. >> Tree lighting ceremony with Mayor Jeremy Harris, the Honolulu Boy Choir and special guests.

>> 6 p.m. >> Public Workers Electric Light Parade sponsored by the Hawaiian Electric Co. leaves Aala Park and makes its way down King Street to City Hall arriving at 6:25 p.m. At the same time the parade passes City Hall, the mayor will turns on the light of the "singing tree" and simultaneously, the downtown corridor will light up.

>> 6:30 p.m. >> Honolulu Hale opens for public viewing of Christmas and wreath exhibits. The display will continue 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the holidays.

>> 7:30 to 9 p.m. >> Santa arrives to listen to children's wishes and for photo taking. (Fujifilm Hawaii will sponsor free photo taking for opening night only.) Santa will visit City Hall nightly until Jan. 5 following evening concerts in Honolulu Hale Courtyard. Call 527-4674 for schedule.

>> 7:30 to 9:45 p.m. >> Holiday concert presented by Tom Moffatt Productions. Featuring Dita Holifield, Sistah Robi Kahakalau, Jake Shimabukuro, Forte, Fiji, 'Ale'a and Jennifer.

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