The 90th Maui Fair begins tomorrow with the traditional parade. Technically, though, it's only the 2nd Maui Fair, because the first 88 were officially called the Maui County Fair. I'm trying to get used to the new name, but the words "County Fair" keep coming out automatically. Just like the campus formerly known as MCC. It's been a couple of years since Maui Community College became the University of Hawaii Maui College (UH-MC), but many of us old-timers still call it MCC. It just rolls off the tongue so easily.
But I'm trying, really, I am. I may be a sentimental fool, but I do think it's important to call things by their correct names. So, as I was saying, the 90th Maui Fair kicks off tomorrow at 4:30 with the parade from UH-MC to the War Memorial complex. The theme of this year's Fair Is "A Timeless Tradition," and indeed, the parade is one of my favorite traditions.
For the eighth year in a row I'll miss it, as I'll already be inside the fairground gates, preparing pulled pork plates at the Mana'o Radio BBQ pork booth. Missing the parade is the biggest drawback to working that opening-day shift.
My earliest parade memories are of the Brownee Brown brigade of baton-twirling girls and tumbling boys. I longed to be one of them, cartwheeling down the parade route and keeping time to a scratchy recording of "Teddy Bears Picnic." Alas, it was not to be. I did, however, get to march in the parade - not as a Brownee Brown dancer, but as a Brownie Girl Scout.
I also liked the Shriners in their funny hats and miniature cars, passing out candy along the parade route. But my favorite parts of the Fair Parade always were, and still are, the marching bands. Like my mom, I have a weakness for John Philip Sousa marches and military bands. Besides our local high school musicians, the parade sometimes featured a visiting armed forces band. Their crisp precision and crystal clear tones stirred something deep within me, and I'd get major chicken skin when they marched by.
Years later, the sounds of a marching band still gave me chicken skin, but this time I was in the middle of the rank-and-file. As a four-year member of the Baldwin High School Pep and Marching Bands, I marched more miles than I'd ever dreamed of doing. One year in particular stands out; it was the year someone moved the horses to the front of the parade. At Baldwin High, we took our marching very seriously, and altering your steps to avoid H (for horse) bombs was expressly forbidden. That year, quite a few of us messed up our perfectly polished black and white saddle shoes. The following year, the horses and their pooper-scooper attendants were back where they belonged . . . at the end of the parade.
One of the benefits of being in the parade - OK, the main benefit - was free admission to the fair on opening day. In fact, back in the days of the old Kahului Fairgrounds, the parade actually ended inside the gates. We'd march between the columns and under the big sign at the main entrance, and then it was on to the rides! A Baldwin band tradition was to fill the merry-go-round with maroon-uniformed riders. But one year, we were told by the carnies that we were too big for the carousel, so we moved to the Ferris wheel for our ritual.
Ah, the Ferris wheel. If only those wooden seats could talk. We didn't have a Tunnel of Love, so the slow spinning wheel with its bird's eye view of Central Maui was the most romantic ride of the fair. Unless you count the Caterpillar, a small circular roller coaster with a canopy that closed up completely once it got to full speed, enveloping screaming riders in total darkness.
My first real roller coaster ride was on the small but mighty Mad Mouse. My mother, who loves thrill rides even more than Sousa marches, took me on when I was 7 or 8. I can still hear her encouraging me, "Stop crying! This is FUN!"
She was right, of course. Mom's always right. I never cried on a roller coaster again, and I've ridden a bunch of them, usually with her. I could fill an entire column with stories of our amusement park escapades.
Right now, though, I must turn my attention to the next four days of Timeless Tradition and a couple hundred pounds of pork. I hope you'll be my proxy at the parade and cheer on the marching bands for me. And I hope to see you at the 90th Maui Fair!
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.