Memorial Day lei poster contest unleashes talent


POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2009

The City Parks & Recreation Department enlists school kids to make 50,000 leis for Punchbowl Cemetery every Memorial Day. To publicize that effort, they hold a “;Sew a Lei for Memorial Day”; poster contest for school kids statewide - judged by a panel of community members, including me this year.

Entries were down to 482 this year, which made the job easier for Wal-Mart's Nancy Ishimoto (Wal-Mart donated prizes), the Pacific Beach Hotel's Stacey Soeda (ditto), Obun Hawaii artist David Tanaka and chiropractor Dr. Gary Saito, who, semiretired, spends much time painting.

The middle-school entries were the easiest to judge, if only because you could eliminate all the ones that inexplicably included anime characters. The elementary school entries were tougher because they were all from little kids, trying hard.

The high school entries all showed considerable skill - and, in one case, considerable originality. Radford High's Shyla Kawelo had drawn a girl making a lei by a pond, and next to her, a fallen flag. Reflected in the pond were not only the feet of the girl, but the boots of a fallen infantryman.

The heavily laced boots were pictured upside down because it was a reflection.

“;It looks like a bustier to me,”; said more than one of the judges.

“;It's not lingerie, it's boots,”; said Ishimoto. “;I'm putting my foot down on this one.”; And so Shyla got her prize. Nice poster, dear.

The royal's real celebrity

I was a bit overwhelmed at last weekend's gala reopening of the Royal Hawaiian. A thousand people, all dressed up. The cameras and reporters swarmed all over the celebrities, most of whom I didn't recognize.

Good thing, too, because KHNL's Diane Ako got screamed at for trying to talk to Hayden Panettiere, who is apparently an actress famous enough for the incident to receive national press.

A time-honored journalistic instinct propelled me to find the much quieter Mai Tai Bar, where I fell into conversation with Chicago attorney Rick Dalka.

Dalka introduced me to other members of the March Crowd - regular Royal guests every March. Wanda Grant, from Niagara Falls, Canada, has been here every year since 1984. Lynette Busby of Walnut Creek, Calif., said she was more a June-July person but was here for opening.

The doyenne of the March crowd was 80-year-old Marianne Fleck, who lives next door to Bill Gates in Seattle. Fleck first came to the Royal Hawaiian as a baby in 1929. “;Wish I remembered it,”; she said.

These people know the Royal better than any of us. “;It's like home here,”; said Fleck.

A few drinks in, the March Crowd and I decided to check out the celebrity fuss on the main lawn. We were introduced to a skinny young blonde named Heather Graham. Neither Marianne nor I knew she was an actress.

Anyway, it turned out that the biggest celebrity on the property was Marianne. She couldn't pass a hotel employee without getting a hug. Wherever she went, there was a table, service help hovering. “;Sit down here, honey,”; she said to me. “;Have another drink.”;

Of all the evening's events, Marianne liked best the surprise fireworks (the staff tipped her off and had a beachside table ready). “;I love fireworks,”; she said. “;At my age they're the most exciting thing that happens all week.”;

Game prose

I've always enjoyed Lisa Linn Kanae's short stories. My favorite is called “;Sassy at the Banyan Veranda.”; Once, Kanae was having tea at the Banyan Veranda when she saw a table of older local ladies playing a bridal party game with a shot glass, an Alka-Seltzer tablet and a condom.

The story, which you are welcome to consult for details, is in Kanae's latest book, “;Islands Linked by Oceans,”; which got a launch party at Kapiolani Community College last Tuesday. In the back of the room was a long table graced with, you guessed it, shot glasses, foil packs of Alka-Seltzer, etc.

So many of Kanae's literary friends and paddling friends played the game that there had to be two rounds, plus a final championship round, before a winner was determined: KCC counselor Regina Ewing.

“;This most fun I've ever had at a literary event,”; said Kanae, who also thanked her husband, Scott Turn, who “;ran to Longs last minute to buy condoms, even though he nevah win.”;

Kanae will have another reading at UH on Thursday. No games.

Surf prose

Congrats for two reasons to Stuart Coleman. Congrats first, because his new book, “;Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing,”; is even better than his last, “;Eddie Would Go,”; the bio of Eddie Aikau. Out next month.

Congrats second, because he's finally put his mania for surfing to practical use, having just been hired as the first Hawaii field coordinator for the national Surfrider Foundation.

Coleman recently traveled to Surfrider headquarters for training. While there, he picked up the foundation's Waverider Award for longtime Hawaii volunteer, Scott Werny, who now suffers from Parkinson's.

“;If it wasn't for Scott,”; says Coleman, “;I wouldn't have the job and the job wouldn't exist. It was humbling to accept the award for him.”;

From Side Street to Kapahulu

Colin Nishida's unpretentious Side Street Inn is the most famous foodie hangout and watering hole in Honolulu. Here's good news for people who had trouble finding the place (and parking) on out-of-the-way Hopaka Street.

Come this fall, there will be a second location, Side Street Inn on the Strip. And it won't be on a side street. It will be in the former Hawaiian Dredging building on Kapahulu, with plenty of parking.

“;It's a good location,”; says Nishida. “;With the economy, our timing may be off, but we'll get through somehow.”;


John Heckathorn is editor of Hawaii Magazine and director of integratedmedia for the aio Group.