LAHAINA - In addition to the many boxes of light bulbs, pounds of zip ties and miles of electric wire, it takes more than a hundred dedicated volunteers to transform an empty field into a vibrant event site. A core group of these volunteers started at "A Taste of Lahaina" 17 years ago, and under the leadership of Bill Countryman, continue their service to the community at the upcoming Lahaina Plantation Days (Oct. 18-20), although several of them have since moved to the Mainland.
Ed Johnson, former director of engineering at the Maui Marriott, travels from New York every year at his own expense to design and build the structures for Lahaina Plantation Days.
He improves the site design annually based on feedback from participants and attendees. Using wood, old "tin" roofing and Plantation Era paints, Ed, along with fellow Marriott Engineer Roger Nitta, re-create old Front Street facades as food booths.
Former Director of Safety and Security at the Maui Marriott Larry Tashman returns from California to make sure that everyone has a fun and safe time at the event. Tashman works with Maui Police Department, the Hawaii Sheriff's Department and security volunteers and has been known to offer seniors rides around the event in his golf cart.
Steve Moyer, nicknamed "Backdrop" for the numerous times he has had to build and rebuild backdrops and "wings" for the stage, is a Lahaina resident who spends a week of his vacation time working on the set.
"Special K," Keneke Kukahiko, is a new and enthusiastic member of the team. "KK" helps out anywhere he is needed, always wearing the famous Kukahiko grin.
For the past 17 years, Dianne and Chandler Countryman have set up, staffed and managed the beer and wine garden and soda booths on behalf of various charities, such as Lahainaluna Project Graduation. Chapin Countryman, also a longtime volunteer and former resident, flies in from the Mainland to assist in all areas of event set up and breakdown.
Since the inception of Lahaina Plantation Days in 2009, Andy Kutsunai and Bobby Kawaguchi have been instrumental in collecting artifacts, including huge old mill equipment abandoned in former cane fields in Olowalu. These seniors, caught up in the excitement of the event, often outlast their younger counterparts and demonstrate vigor beyond their years.
Setting up the site for Lahaina Plantation Days is seven days of long, 16-hour days in the hot sun. However, the camaraderie, fun and community spirit of the crew makes up for the hard work. This core group is joined by many more volunteers on event day, eager to welcome the thousands of residents and visitors who come to Lahaina Plantation Days for good food, good music and good fun!
For more information about Lahaina Plantation Days, or to volunteer, please visit www.lahainarestoration.org. See you at the event!