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Lifestyle // Island Matters
Mufi Hannemann

Hana Hou For Waimanalo Rodeo

I tip my one and only cowboy hat to Bud Gibson, owner of New Town and Country Stables and Rocker G Livestock, and Dita Holifield, SALEM Communications director of sales and longtime country music aficionado, for taking the bull by the horns and producing a highly successful and entertaining All-American Rodeo in Waimanalo recently.

Given that this was my first rodeo experience, I had no idea what to expect other than being advised through all the advertising hype on Country 97.5 that this was going to be “one heck of a show.” And what I witnessed didn’t disappoint: three first-class professional shows spread over two days where Hawaiian paniolo men, women and keiki; horses, cattle and livestock; along with visitors from far and wide flocked to the Windward side of Oahu.

“I had no idea we were going to sell out two of the three shows. More than 8,000 people supported us,” Holifield reports.

The overwhelming response came from spectators from Hilo to Hanalei, including my pal Trinette Kaui and her family from Kauai.

Gibson and Holifield resurrected a tradition that ended a decade ago, after it had become too expensive to produce rodeos of great magnitude.

“We’re grateful that Dita and a host of local sponsors brought back our paniolo tradition to Oahu, where we have lost so much of our agriculture ranch and farmlands to developments, or should I say ‘aina destruction,’” says Gibson. “It is vital to use the rodeo and livestock industries to create an awareness of the important role cattle ranches play as an integral part of self-sustainability in our food production.”

The paniolo heritage in Hawaii remains strong, and Gibson was delighted to see old-timers such as Warren Matsumoto, Stanley Joseph Jr., Melvin Miranda and Lola Pauline, who coordinated the 124 contestants. Some $35,000 in cash prizes, along with silver buckles, were awarded to the 2014 rodeo champs. Among them are Vacations Hawaii Cowboy Poker: Paul Bryant and Sarah Falk; 76 Gas Stations Team Roping: Wyatt Rita and Melvin Joseph; Noakai Keiki Barrels: Brayden Rice; Kalaka

Nui Wahine Steer Undecorating: Amy Sumida; Matson Double Mugging: Preston Cambra and Stoney Joseph; Geico Match Barrels: Jessica Keawe; Hawaii VIP Storage Wahine Barrel: Real Pocock, and Island Style Realty Ranch Bronc: Jason Lau. Bucking Chute sponsors included, JN Chevrolet, Hawaii Gas, Veterans United Home Loans of Hawaii, Noh Foods and yours truly.

The rodeo was more than your typical dog and pony show, and that ain’t no bull!

Let me rephrase: There were “many bulls” showcased, including 100 animals attracting island rodeo royalty, including Sale Sproat of Molokai, who swept the June 20 Dave & Buster’s Bull Riding competition. He rode in honor of his legendary paniolo father, Buzzy, who together with Roy Horner ran the Molokai Mule rides to Kalaupapa. Uncle Buzzy passed away a week before the rodeo competition.

As it was my very first rodeo — and a memorable one, at that — I dragged along my buddy since seventh grade, Colin Ching. It’s no secret Colin and I are huge Elvis fans, so naturally we felt right at home in the country setting. We have gone to a multitude of entertainment and sporting events together, and even fulfilled our childhood dream of traveling to Graceland back in 2007. I must admit, the rodeo experience nearly beat the excitement of touring the King’s home, museum and gravesite in Memphis. Colin challenged me to hop on a bull, and I told him I would oblige only if he played Cowboy Poker. We both opted out — though highly adventurous, we know our limits, and rodeo will remain strictly a spectator sport.

Seeing the six cowboys/gals play poker with bulls charging at them in the arena was hysterical. Watching the competitors hanging onto a small table, playing with a deck of cards and sitting on folding chairs was a comical, yet toe-curling scene. The last player had to hold onto the card table while hanging on for his or her dear life. Who needs to experience running with the bulls in Spain when you can run for your life from them in Waimanalo? All kidding aside, no one was ever at risk. Holifield also flew in from Utah one of the most famous rodeo clowns in the country, Kevin Higley, who’s been clowning around for the past 17 years promoting rodeos as a family sport.

Colin describes the opening ceremonies as “An Olympics of sort for animal lovers, military families and sports enthusiasts.” It was chickenskin watching some of Hawaii’s rodeo queens present military flags on horseback. The rodeo gave a boost to the Waimanalo economy, generating thousands of dollars in revenue to benefit several nonprofit organizations and youth groups.

Nine months of unending preparation, nine days of non-stop setup for a whopping $70,000 investment — with a ROI that is invaluable —

was what it took to make the comeback of this rodeo event possible. Gibson hopes to solidify his partnership with Holifield over the next five years. This is welcome news for both longtime and recent converts of rodeo.

More importantly, cheers to cowboys and cowgirls in the making, as we see the second generation of Waimanalo rodeo royalty rise to prominence.

mufi@mufihannemann.com

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