With the humpback whales' yearly 6,000-mile migration to their winter home in waters off Hawaii comes the annual welcome from Mauians.
Pacific Whale Foundation's free Whale Day will kick off Saturday with a parade from 9 to 10 a.m. in South Maui and continue with daylong festivities, which feature some of Hawaii's top musicians. Cecilio and Kapono, John Cruz, Anuhea, The Throwdowns, Marty Dread, George Kahumoku, Jr., and Gail Swanson, along with Pat Simmons from the Doobie Brothers, are among performances set for the oceanside stage. And an array of food, children's activities, environmental displays and crafts will be offered. Funds raised will support marine education programs for Maui schoolchildren.
The Keiki Carnival area will feature inflatable rides, cotton candy, shave ice and games. Nearly 100 local artisans will display and sell their wares. Also, Whale Day will include a silent auction from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; a farmers market with fresh produce from O'o Farms; the Wild & Wonderful Whale Regatta, an opportunity to win free round-trip airfare for two between the Mainland and Maui; and Eco-Alley, which holds booths by local nonprofits, businesses and government agencies that are working to protect the environment. The pathway through Eco-Alley will take visitors to a Whale Day highlight: the Curtain of 36,000 Origami Whales by artist, conservationist and snowboarder Peggy Oki.
Cecilio and Kapono, and other top musicians, will provide free entertainment during Whale Day on Saturday in Kihei.
JAMES GARRETT photo
The celebration, which will mark its 31st year, is one of the most popular events on the island, with about 16,000 attending last year's Whale Day, according to Anne Rillero, PWF director of conservation and member communication. The event is planned each year to coincide with February, the peak of whale season.
"The community's enthusiasm for Whale Day grows and grows," said Rillero, who's been with PWF for 16 years. "We meet many people who say, 'Oh, Whale Day, we never miss that event - it's my favorite point of the year.' "
After all, there's much to celebrate when it comes to some of Hawaii's most-loved part-time residents, who live in Hawaii from November and May. Their interactions with one another, the way they breach from the water in a powerful display of play, their songs captured below the sea, Rillero said, it's all part of the allure and mystery of the mammals.
Maui Parade of Whales:
9 to 10 a.m. Saturday; free
Dozens of performers, music, floats, bands, costumed character, a life-size humpback whale balloon and more will start at Alanui Keali'i Drive and proceed north along South Kihei Road. Parade ends at the Kihei Library on Waimahaihai Street.
Whale Day Celebration:
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; free entry
Daylong festivities of entertainment, food, activities, arts, crafts at Kalama Park in Kihei.
Great Maui Whale Count:
8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 26; locations around Maui; advanced registration required
Join Pacific Whale Foundation's Research Team for this annual citizens' count of the humpback whales in Maui that can be seen from shore. No experience is required, and tools and training will be provided.
"Whales cause us all to seem more childlike in our sense of wonder, to really think about the ocean and marvel at it," she said.
For details on parking and other information, visit www.pacificwhale.org.
- Kehaulani Cerizo