This past weekend marked the 15th anniversary of one of the great things to do in Kauai Hawaii. The Coconut Festival is held each year in the charming town of Kapa’a to celebrate all things coconut. Hosted by the Kapa’a business community it has become the premier Fall happening on the Kauai festival calendar. This two day event highlights one of the most important plant species in the world that touches almost everyone’s life on the planet.
Started by the effervescent Bob Bartolo, a long time member and director of the Kapa’a Business Association in 1996 as a way to promote the importance of Kauai’s coconut coast which comprises the north east coast of Kauai from the Wailua river to Kapa’a. This area was always sacred to Hawaiians and their Ali’i or royalty it is no wonder that it has many cultural and archaeological sites. In the 1800′s sugar planters took areas that were considered marginal for sugarcane, and planted copra, which at the time was used for its oil and meat or copra. It was hoped that copra would become an important crop in their efforts to farm the land and to diversify.
The history of the coconut, Cocos nucifera is storied and epic in its journey around the world. Ethno-botanist now agree that the plant originated in the western Pacific and spread pre human migration throughout the islands and Asia via ocean currents. The earliest written mention is in the Hindu epic the Ramayana about 4000 BC. It was so important to the very existence of native peoples that used it as a food source, shelter, tools, and fuel that it is used in Hindu and Buddhist religious ceremonies, and in Pacific islander legends of their gods and goddesses.
This years event included cooking demonstrations by Kauai’s leading chefs, and a coconut cook off for the bragging rights of the most delicious coconut recipe. Musicians, vendors and artisans from around the island showcased their talent at the two day event. Creating whimsical painted coconut postcards, to delicate Hawaiian jewelry fusing bone and coconut to bring alive ancient pre contact designs. There were great activities for the children from face painting to the fun houses, crazy coconut games, and a pie eating contest, which of course was coconut custard.
Chief Tifutu (Kap), from the Polynesian Cultural center on O’ahu came over to tell us about the importance of the coconut in the Samoan culture. Kap demonstrated how the coconut husk was an important tool to starting a fire. He demonstrated fire making using the wild hibiscus or hau tree stripping the bark and rubbing two sticks together. In a matter of 15 seconds he had a flame going and a full fire with the dry fiber of the coconut in under 60 seconds. It probably could have been done even quicker however Kap was talking an entertaining us with stories of growing up in Samoa.
Rounding out the show Kap and his relatives performed a traditional Samoan fire dance employing all his skills learned from years in Samoa. He then climbed an 80 foot coconut tree using just a loop of cloth around his feet to scale the tree in a matter of 30 seconds.
The Coconut Festival is open to all, and the price of admission is just a one dollar donation, however, any amount will be accepted. The festival is sponsored by the Kapaa Business Association and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
We would love to read your comments and tell us what your favorite coconut dish is. We will let Bob know and perhaps it will be included in next years event.