Halloween made a splash early this month on Molokai at the Master Blasters Canoe Race. The 29th annual regatta is more play than work, with paddlers dressing in costume and drinking beer at each stop along the six-mile course.
Designed for those 35 and older with physical stamina, ocean acumen and livers of steel, it transitioned into a colorful party in Molokai Canoe Club's shady hale at Kaunakakai Harbor. Paddlers and spectators danced to disc jockey tunes and listened to old-time ukulele music by kupuna.
The afterparty also featured homegrown Molokai food and a lively awards presentation. Each crew picked a representative to enter the dance-off to be named king and queen. In true Molokai fashion, prizes were handcaught and hand-dried tako, or octopus.
The ladies Best Costume award at this year’s Master Blaster race went to Maui paddlers Lynn Carroll (from left), Patty Rycroft, Doreen Dagan, Rulan Waikiki and Lovei Bednorz of Hawaiian Canoe Club and Lea Giddens of Kihei Canoe Club, who dazzled the crowds as the Wildcat Witches.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Keiki from Moana’s Hula Halau of the Friendly Isle perform at last year's Molokai Business & Food Expo. This year’s festivities kick off Saturday.
Molokai Chamber of Commerce photo
This year's event was in honor of the late August "Junior" Rawlins, who died this summer. His father, August Rawlins Sr., founded the Master Blasters almost three decades ago. August's daughters Rhonda Negrillo, Cindy Manaois and Liko Wallace served as hosts and his brother was in attendance to pay respects.
"We've been doing this race for 20 years now," said Steve Hogan of Kihei Canoe Club, sporting a moose headpiece with antlers and Moose McGillycuddy's T-shirt from his team's Maui restaurant sponsor. "Over the years, we've dressed as Chinese coolies, paddling Elvises, Acatraz jailbreaks, Italian gondoliers and Santa Claus and his five reindeer - you name it."
"It's such a fun weekend with the boys, that's why we always return," said his teammate Bob Brooks, as they rode the Molokai Princess ferry, which runs daily from Lahaina Harbor to Kaunakakai Harbor.
Other Moose team members included Ed Begley, Mark Kasabergen, Wilson "the mayor of Molokai" Angel and Ken Pearsall, who added, "what happens on Molokai stays on Molokai. Nah, just kidding! This race is a good way to support our club."
Winning Best Costume for their exposed beer bellies, arms and backs painted in glittering gold and heads adorned with warrior headpieces were the unnamed Spartans of Oahu.
The ladies Best Costume award went to Maui paddlers Lynn Carroll, Patty Rycroft, Lovei Bednorz, Rulan Waikiki and Doreen Dagan of Hawaiian Canoe Club and Lea Giddens of Kihei Canoe Club, who dazzled the crowds as the Wildcat Witches with cougar-print dresses, pointy hats, black lipstick and painted nails.
The race winners in the Male Division were also from Maui. Called the North Shore Renegades, they were Brian Naole, Malama Chun, Kai Thielk, Mahi Cabero, Kiwini Hall and Willie Albiar, all dressed in traditional Scottish plaid tam hats and plaid trunks with "I love haggis" buttons. The men's crews also had to rig their outriggers before guzzling and racing.
BEYOND THE BEACH
The island will continue to remain in the spotlight with the upcoming Molokai Business & Food Expo on Saturday. And, it's still garnering international attention with the Oct. 21 canonization of the late Mother Marian Cope at St. Peter's Basiclia in Rome.
On Saturday, the Molokai Chamber of Commerce will host its 10th annual Business & Food Expo at its new downtown Kaunakakai location, the Paddlers Inn. This year's theme is A Taste of Molokai.
"It's an exciting venue that brings much needed economic stimuli to our island and attracts both island residents and visitors alike. Last year, we hosted over 1,000 people," says chamber President Robert Stephenson.
The expo is traditionally held at the Lanikeha Center in Molokai's cool uplands and it's also been held at the Friendly Isle's large Mitchell Paole Center.
"It's co-sponsored by the Maui County Office of Economic Development and we are grateful to have the funding. But it's been cut back to about a third," says Stephenson. "So we've taken it from a big, huge hall to a more intimate setting. By branding it the Taste of Molokai, it encompasses not only the food, but the businesses."
Throughout the day, attendees may watch popular Maui County chefs creating dishes made with Molokai products.
"They're prepared in front of excited onlookers and offered for sale," explained Stephenson, who added that "for the first time, we'll feature select wines specially chosen by our chefs to pair with each of their gourmet creations. As I say, 'What's a gourmet dish without wine?' "
Chef participants include Gene Pike from the Hotel Molokai, Dean Louie of Maui Culinary Academy, and Chris Schobel of Hula Grill in Kaanapali. Uncle Leon and Blanche Howe, a couple who run the kitchen at the Paddlers Inn, will sell their housemade bratwurst.
As far as vendors go, there will be about 10 or 12 businesses, plus a showcase of local entertainers, according to Stephenson.
MORE ON MOLOKAI
What else is happening on the island? The Hotel Molokai was just featured in the Molokai Dispatch newspaper in a story regarding getting its Hula Shores kitchen up and running by next year after an unfortunate fire this summer.
"When the fire happened, in a matter or hours, we lost 50 percent of our full-service restaurants," says Stephenson. "But the hotel is still open. In fact, it's sold out this weekend. For now, you may bring what you want to eat."
The Hotel Molokai's General Manager Michael Drew gives away potato chips, and he's working on getting a temporary permit to grill burgers and such in the near future.
As far as accommodations go, Hotel Molokai is still happening, albeit without its restaurant. But the lounge offers live music nightly and since you may bring your own food in, it makes for an affordable vacation. Molokai Shores is also centrally located. On the east end is the Wavecrest, and on the west end are condos such as Paniolo Hale. Tropical Island Properties rents homes and condos all over the island and offers discounts in conjunction with airline and rental car companies.
The Molokai Vistors Bureau lists of a dozen or more other eateries and pit stops. But for now, the Paddlers Inn is the only full-service restaurant on the island of 7,345 people. Molokai still has no stoplights. No working elevators. But cabs such as Hele Mai and Midnight Taxi keep busy at events such as the Master Blasters and the recent Hallo-Queen costume contest that drew in inquisitive crowds.
Other regular happenings include the Saturday Farmers Market with local produce and vendors set up along the sidewalk in Kaunakakai. Sip cold coconut milk in shell with a straw, buy sunglasses, sarongs and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Molokai Plumeria farm is easily spotted about three miles west of Kaunakakai on the way into town from the airport. Other points of interest include the numerous fish ponds along the east end, Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm, Coffees of Hawaii and Kumu Farms. More details on hours and locations are listed in the side bar of what's free to do on Molokai.
Of course, a trip to Molokai wouldn't be complete without a drive up to the cool Kalaupapa Lookout, overhanging the scenic peninsula below, where Mother Marian Cope and Father Damien lived and took care of Hansen's disease patients.
"There are many outdoor activities," says Stephenson. "You may kayak, scuba dive, snorkel, book a charter fishing tour. The hikes are really wonderful into Halawa Valley and on the boardwalk in the nature preserve. We still have the Ironwoods Hills golf course in Kalae. And our featured attraction is the mule ride down to Kalaupapa."
A top outfitter is Molokai Outdoors, owned by Clare Mawae, a world windsurfing champion and 10-time British National Champion, who offers from stand-up paddle board lessons to concierges who book island activities.
"Come join us for the very best Molokai has to offer," says Stephenson. "We hope to see you soon."
One thing is for sure, you'll have a "blast."