COURTESY KONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Activities such as lei making will be at the Mauka Food & Fun Fest.
Kona historical event includes music, fun, food
Two years ago, when the Kona Historical Society unveiled its forno (traditional Portuguese wood-burning oven) at its headquarters in Kealakekua, it was the talk of the community. For many people, it conjured up fond memories of their grandmothers baking bread decades ago in a similar oven.
MAUKA FOOD & FUN FEST
» Place: Kona Historical Society, 81-6551 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, Big Island (14 miles south of Kailua-Kona, between mile markers 111 and 112)
» Date and time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 13
» Admission: Free
» Call: (808) 323-3222
» E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
» Web site: www.konahistorical.org
» 9 to 9:30 a.m.: Opening ceremony featuring Konawaena High School Jr. ROTC's Wildcat Batallion, Na Wai Iwi Ola Hula Halau
» 9:45 to 10:30 a.m.: Hawaiian Hula Sunset Serenaders
» 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.: Kahikolu Congregational Church
» 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Big Island Portuguese Cultural Club
» 12:15 to 1 p.m.: Live auction with Augie T
» 1 to 1:45 p.m.: Bobbie Niihau and Marcus Won Yuen
» 2 to 2:30 p.m.: Kona Hongwanji Taiko Group
» 2:45 - 3:15 p.m. Ukulele Lehulehu
IN THE RANCHING TENT:
» 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.: Pau wrapping
» 10:30 to 11 a.m.: Equine dentistry
» 11 to 11:30 a.m.: Horseshoeing
» 11:30 a.m. to noon: Hawaiian tree saddle making
» Noon to 12:30 p.m.: Ukulele making
» 1 to 3 p.m.: Jam session and "talk story" time with Kona musicians
"Sadly, though, when we asked for recipes, they couldn't tell us anything," recalled Ramona Amoguis, KHS event coordinator and a graduate of New York's prestigious Culinary Institute of America. "That information never was passed on to them."
Consequently, she and other KHS members learned how to bake bread in the forno by trial and error.
"We started with a recipe, tried it, didn't like it, changed it and tried it again," said Amoguis. "Once we got the recipe down, we had to adjust for the weather; in hot weather and high humidity, the dough rises faster so you have to work faster."
Adding to the challenge is the ever-changing nature of the forno's fire. The wood might be a different type or drier or wetter than what was used the time before. Also, logs burn slower than split wood, and, thus, take longer to heat the oven.
"Baking with the forno is definitely a mix of art and science," said Amoguis. "But local folks say they like our bread because it's dense and chewy like the bread they remember from their childhood, not fluffy and airy like the commercial brands."
PORTUGUESE IMMIGRANTS arrived in Kona in the 1870s to help develop and manage dairies and ranches. They used their skills as stone masons to build cattle pens and fornos, firing up the ovens each week to bake bread for their own needs and extra loaves for bartering or selling. White bread was their daily staple; their now-famous sweet bread was reserved for special occasions.
Those attending KHS' Mauka Food & Fun Fest on Sept. 13 will discover many fascinating facts about life in Kona at the turn of the last century. Supporting the event's theme, "Celebrating the Kona Cowboy," experts will be on hand to demonstrate horseshoeing, leather braiding, equine dentistry, Hawaiian tree saddle making and pau (riding skirt) wrapping.
"Barrel bull riding" will be another draw. For this activity, a big barrel is strung on bungee-type cords between four posts. The rider sits on the barrel as two people pull the cords to make it "buck." If you lose your balance, you'll fall atop a soft, thick mattress.
COURTESY KONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The Kona Historical Society bakes bread regularly in its forno, or Portuguese wood-burning oven.
There will also be continuous musical entertainment, as well as demonstrations of lauhala weaving, feather lei making, ukulele making, Hawaiian quilting, and ipu (gourd) carving and growing. Kids can enjoy cowboy games, pony rides, a horseshoe-throwing contest, face painting and a petting zoo.
About the Kona Historical Society
Founded in 1976, the Kona Historical Society is a nonprofit, community-based organization whose mission is "to collect, preserve, interpret and disseminate the history of the Kona districts." Among its educational programs is the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, a five-and-a-half-acre coffee farm a mile south of its headquarters that was first homesteaded in 1900.
KHS aims to raise $1.5 million to expand the farm and its exhibits. It's also spearheading a $3,275,000 capital campaign to develop the two-acre Kalukalu Ranch Homestead at its headquarters, which will encompass a blacksmith's shed, saddle house, bunkhouse and other structures typical of Kona ranches in the late 1800s.
Tax-deductible contributions for these projects can be made out to the Kona Historical Society and mailed to P.O. Box 398, Captain Cook, Hawaii 96704.
In the restored H.N. Greenwell Store on site, Kealakekua resident Maile Melrose will portray her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Caroline Greenwell, who opened the store with her husband, Henry Nicholas, in 1870.
Meanwhile, shoppers can peruse a wide variety of wares, including books; T-shirts; hats; feather leis; native plants; leather, palaka and lauhala goods; and ceramics, vintage bottles, and other art and collectibles.
There also will be plenty of delicious food for sale, including Portuguese, Japanese, Puerto Rican and Filipino specialties, and fresh bread baked in the forno.
According to Noni Kuhns, KHS' director of sales, the idea for the Mauka Food & Fun Fest sprung from the success of the organization's Portuguese Heritage Festival in 2005.
"We wanted to do a similar type of fundraiser, but instead of focusing on one ethnic group, we decided to include as many as we could," she said. "It'll be similar to the fairs I attended as a child growing up on Oahu, which were all about love of food, music and family."
Certain to be among the attendees will be descendants of 19th-century sugar cane plantation workers, coffee farmers, dairymen, ranchers and shopkeepers.
"They all helped write Kona's history," said Kuhns. "The Mauka Food & Fun Fest will bring together people from these diverse backgrounds to share and experience each other's heritage. By doing so, we all can better understand and appreciate what 'local style' means in Hawaii. It's not just one culture, but a wonderful blend of many."
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.