The grand marshal of today's Maui Fair Parade reflected on the days when he watched from afar as a parade spectator and his grandfather who was "passionate about the county fair."
Big-wave surfer Archie Kalepa, 2012 Duke Kahanamoku Waterman Hall of Fame inductee, recalls as a youngster "watching the parade and . . . seeing people waving."
"Sitting in the seat and being the grand marshal, I'm excited," he said Wednesday afternoon. "I'm looking forward to it."
Kalepa will be at the front of the parade that begins at University of Hawaii Maui College, rolls down Kaahumanu and Kanaloa avenues, and ends at the War Memorial Stadium parking lot this afternoon.
The first of the 70 units and 5,665 marchers will depart UH-Maui College at about 4:30 p.m. The number of marchers is a little larger than last year, said Roy Silva, parade chairperson, on Wednesday.
The parade will feature its usual floats, high school bands, community organizations and businesses, said Silva. There will be no politicians in the parade, per policy, he added.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Mayor Alan Arakawa as leaders of the state and county will be participating in the parade, he said.
And as is the tradition with the fair parade, there will be no awards given out, Silva said.
The parade is a kickoff event of the Maui Fair, which runs from today to Sunday. The fair times are 5 to 11 p.m. today, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.
Admission for Thursday to Saturday is $7 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 11 years old and free for younger children. The prices are reduced on Sunday to $5 for adults and $2 for children. The first 2,000 people enter free on Sunday.
The fair was big for the grand marshal's grandfather, Frank Sylva, whom Kalepa remembers winning lots of big stuffed animals.
"He was passionate about the county fair," said Kalepa. "He went to every fair until he could no longer walk. . . . It showed how much he loved the fair."
Kalepa gained fame as one of the first tow-in surfers to brave the 70-foot waves at the surf spot known as "Jaws" in Peahi. He was the first to solo stand-up paddle across the Molokai Channel and the first to paddle down the Colorado River, according to a supplement to The Maui News.
He and Oahu lifeguard Brian Keaulana developed innovative safety equipment and rescue techniques using personal watercraft and water sleds.
Kalepa also is Maui County's ocean safety supervisor.
He called being named grand marshal a "very humbling experience" and "a little embarrassing," but "like riding big waves, you gotta rise to the occasion."
"I've been practicing my waving," he said. "It's all in the fun.
"As Duke Kahanamoku would say: 'Spreading the aloha.' ''
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.