I got to ride in a convertible at Saturday's 48th annual Makawao Fourth of July Parade, what a thrill!
I was with Gail Ainsworth, author of "Maui Remembers," and horseman, former polo player and rodeo hand Hui Bainbridge, president of the Maui High School Class of 1963, in an effort to publicize the Makawao Community Association's forthcoming community history project.
Hui was decked out for the occasion in a turquoise cowboy shirt with his name stitched in palaka, a gift from Charlene Thompson of Hawaii Rodeo Shirt Co. ("Well, we grew up together.") She's the sister of the parade's organizer, the irrepressible Theresa Thompson, lovely that day in a white cowboy hat with a lei haku woven in roses.
Gail had purchased a pink western shirt and black cowboy hat with a Maui lokelani colored band from Aloha Cowboy, to which she added black cowboy boots left over from line-dancing days and a svelte pair of black jeans. It didn't take me long to realize who should sit with Hui on the trunk of the car.
This happened to be Mike Foley's pumpkin-toned 1977 Mercedes Benz, one of those vintage beauties whose solid doors require a gym membership to open. Foley, former planning director under a previous Arakawa administration ("Four years was enough"), is president of the Makawao Community Association and active in Maui Tomorrow. For years, the car belonged to Richard Michaels, creator of the television series "Bewitched" ("It's been in Beverly Hills all its life.") Foley bought the car when Judith Michaels bought her husband a new Mercedes for his 75th birthday.
"I went from quarter horse to Mercedes Benz," Hui explained to friends as we cruised along in the route. Oh, it was fun.
I've always viewed the parade from a point near the end at the Eddie Tam Community Center. Now we were waving at the crowd - big this year, six-deep at some places along Makawao Avenue - passing the grandstand, where the brassy wahine announcer did her best to aloha each entry.
Ahead of us were the samba dancers from the Maui Dance Council and the magnificent black pair of Frisian horses with long manes and feathered feet, drawing the yellow carriage of the new Maui Touch Ranch.
While Gail and Hui waved to everyone they knew ("Gail! Gail!" "Auntie, how you? Good. Good.") I provided walkers in our party with fresh supplies of the 2,000 pink handouts introducing the new history project.
Very soon, the community association hopes to acquire space in the former Randy Jay Braun gallery on Makawao Avenue where it will install equipment so that people can bring in their scrapbooks and photos to be digitally copied and returned on the spot. Old-timers will be invited to offer their memories via videotaped interviews.
The association's Paul Mikolay envisions a place where folks from disparate reaches of Makawao can mingle. As people come forward and copies of their photos go up on the walls, the town will gain insight into not only its past but its current identity as well. (To find out more, call Foley at 572-7281 or Judy Mertens at 572-6877.)
The parade was replete with surprises - I saw an old Dodge Army truck from Camp Maui days, loved the Maui Invasive Species Committee's "fire ant" - but the winner by far was the float celebrating the anniversary of Haleakala Ranch, begun by Charles Hodge Alexander 125 years ago.
Dozens of stockholders and family members in matching blue-and-white palaka shirts and red bandanas accompanied the truck, the entire cab of which was fashioned with cement and wire mesh into the enormous head of a steer with formidable horns. Smoke emitted from its nostrils as Barry McKay, using a camera, managed to guide the behemoth down the road.
That was a treat, a generous giveback to the community. Said stockholder Maizie Cameron Sanford, "It's very Makawao."
What impressed me, too, were the ranch cowboys Lester Wong and Roland Kehano and his children, Colton and Kalena. Down by Makawao Cemetery, in the pre-parade chaos, riders (some of them on "push-button horses" after a couple of lessons, according to Hui) worked to control their skittish mounts.
Up ahead, waiting to lead the ranch float, the professionals and the kids were perfectly lined up, their obedient cow ponies utterly still.
"Roland!" Theresa hollered, and they moved forward into the parade, that spectacle at which every year Makawao shows us something new about itself.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.