Sunny blue skies interrupted wild Wali weather Sunday afternoon, allowing folks to get down to some serious chili eating.
The second annual Hawaii State Championship Chili Cookoff was a great excuse to head for Ulapalakua Ranch, especially after being housebound by all the downed trees, road closures and flood threats since the middle of the night.
Actually, any excuse works to head for the historic buildings, gorgeous gardens and spectacular vistas from King David Kalakaua's onetime summer getaway. It's enchanted. Just being there feels like you've stepped back in time for a card game with the Merrie Monarch yourself.
In Sunday's cookoff benefiting the Maui 4-H Livestock Association, the magic was in the ingredients creatively used by the contenders transforming comfort food to gourmet fare.
The rules were simple, but ingenious. There were official judges, but the nonprofessionals - including us and friends Diana Crow, Paul Meyer, John White and Aubrey Hord, and Karen and Eric Lincoln - paid $5 for a little plastic bag. In it were five tickets, five small cups, one tiny spoon, a napkin and a cork.
At each table you presented your ticket and got one cup filled. After five tastes you gave your cork to your favorite. The table with the most corks won.
Upcountry's Tanya and Jake Akaka were excited to win the People's Choice award; the entire event got our cork for a great recipe for a fun-filled afternoon.
I had been in a historic state of mind ever since discovering The Story of Hawaii Museum at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, a few doors down from Macy's. Open since November, it's free and charming. Vintage maps, historic artifacts and old news accounts tell the story.
Erin Gonzalez is the director; partners Bryant Neal and Buck Michelson operate the museum as a 503(c)(3) nonprofit, relying on donations and sales, including art by Theresa Crowley, Marie Cologna, Greg Guzman, Brendon Blair and Luke Carvalho.
"A lot of people are helping make this work," said Gonzalez. Yellowing newspaper front pages tell of Pearl Harbor, statehood and the overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalni.
Tourists drop in when the cruise ships are in port, but Gonzales reports that visitors are mostly local. "Kids love it. We have made a lot of friends."
It's open to school groups and college classes and offers a talk-story session every other Thursday. The next one will be from 4 to 6 p.m. July 31; Jeff Reisse will talk about the Kahului Railroad. For more information, call 633-1448.
Meanwhile, at the Sears end of the mall, the Maui Friends of the Library bookstore marked its second anniversary July 14. It's a little bastion for the disappearing pleasure of reading words on paper pages in these post-Borders, Kindle-powered times.
My previous experience of the store was at the back-door loading dock, dropping boxes of books after garage sales. I came in through the front door this time, where Kyle Ellison's "Moon Maui" guidebook is prominently displayed. (It's the good one - as opposed to the unfortunate one whose name shall not be revealed here.) I sat on a comfortable couch getting lost in the pages of Herb Kane's "Voyagers."
The store deals primarily in donated used books, but its Hawaiiana is new, points out store manager and volunteer coordinator Cyndi Rogers.
Ebb & Flow Arts also celebrated an anniversary - its 15th - in a July 11 concert at Makawao Union Church, reports Cynthia Conrad. Attending with her husband, Jerry Labb, she was one of the notable island artists, including Martha Woodbury, Tony Walholm, Piero Resta and George Allan in the pews.
Ebb & Flow Director Robert Pollock began the evening noting that Janet Allan shared her birthday with his innovative musical group - hence cake for everyone!
New York pianist Adam Tendler performed four Hawaiian premieres. "He played with fiery enthusiasm and deep, tender feeling, bringing the audience to its feet at the end," reports Cynthia.
Another free Ebb & Flow Arts concert is scheduled for Aug. 10 at Seabury Hall.
And Carolee Higashino, president and owner of White Orchid Weddings in Wailuku, recently assisted in the final episode of "R&B Divas," which aired June 26 on TV One. It was produced entirely on Oahu and filmed at The Modern hotel in Waikiki. Carolee designed, stylized and created the ceremony, the first to be televised for an African-American same-sex couple.
"With the recent legalization of same-sex marriages in the State of Hawaii, the story is based very much on showing Hawaii as a gay-friendly destination wedding locale," she says.
Or maybe just a kind, friendly place for everyone.
* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and Emmy-nominated scriptwriter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 344-9535.