As the nation prepares for Memorial Day weekend, those of us lucky enough to be on Maui can participate in perhaps the sweetest and most unique observance of the occasion.
Residents and visitors of all ages are invited to help string some 3,000 lei to be placed at each gravesite at the Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao. Presented by Kaunoa Senior Services and the Mayor’s Office, the annual Blossoms for the Brave community flower drive and lei-making event will take place on the front lawn of the county building in Wailuku this Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.
Donations of fresh flowers, greenery or ti leaves may be dropped off anytime after 7 a.m. at the South High Street parking lot fronting the county building. Sturdy flowers, like crown flowers, bougainvillea, orchids and bozu are best. Plumeria buds and partially opened plumeria are also good. If you are bringing ti leaves, they must be pre-cut and frozen for lei-making. Any amount of lei materials will be welcomed. You can also deliver completed lei; please note that these lei are not full size; they should measure 16 inches before tying.
While donations of completed lei are welcomed and appreciated, I encourage you to join the lei volunteers for an hour or two, or even for just 15 minutes, plenty of time to make a lei or two, especially at the shorter-than-usual length. No lei-making experience is necessary; volunteer coaches will guide novices through stringing flowers or twisting ti leaves into garlands of gratitude. Lei are symbolic of love, honor, respect, aloha. I can’t think of a sweeter way to pay tribute to our veterans.
It’s the perfect start to Memorial Day weekend. In years past, Kaunoa seniors and staff have been joined by curious tourists, multigenerational families, World War II veterans and active duty military personnel. As Mayor Michael Victorino said, “Many hands make for light labor. . . . The more, the merrier. Please come and honor the memory of our veterans who sacrificed so much for our country.”
Ample parking will be available at the War Memorial sports complex, in the Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Baseball Stadium parking lot. Free shuttles will depart for the county building every half-hour, starting at 8:30 a.m. The last return shuttle to the parking lot will depart at 12:30 p.m.
I’ve had the honor of serving as event emcee every year since the first one in 2012. This Friday, however, I’ll be on my way to Michigan, carrying lei for a different occasion: my granddaughter’s high school graduation. Along with a dozen candy, seed and arare lei, Mom and I are taking a box of plumeria to string at our destination. My talented and generous cousin Betty is making a very special lei po’o for the graduate, and I am crocheting an eyelash yarn lei in Union City High School colors, maroon and gray. While I’m obviously thrilled and delighted to join my son and his family for Lilly’s big day, I will miss taking part in this year’s Blossoms for the Brave.
Sitting outdoors under a giant tent, surrounded by fragrant blossoms and friendly smiles, listening to beautiful Hawaiian music and talking story with friends both old and new, it’s a lovely way to spend any Friday. The added satisfaction of taking part in a community effort of love and respect for our fallen heroes makes this Friday, truly, a very special Aloha Friday.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.