Walter Stevens (out front)grabs the baton from partner, Mark Yamaguchi,
as Jiro Yamaguchi holds back for his pass in the relay
It is probably safe
to say that the most unique attribute of Waimea is its location within
one of the world's largest ranches. Where else can you see top-notch working
cowboys strut their racing, riding, roping stuff? One of the events to
be celebrated by Parker Ranch in this one hundred fiftieth anniversary
year, is the thirty-sixth annual Fourth of July meet. Over the years,
it has been a showcase for the riding skills of local paniolo as
well as an opportunity to honor visiting dignitaries and retiring employees.
In reading past accounts of the rodeo in the Paka Paniolo, one
senses that this celebration was one of closure for the events of the
year, a reflection of that year's happenings.
The meet begins with an opening ceremony in which both retired and current paniolo, on well-groomed Parker Ranch horses -- flags and banners waving -- ride past the reviewing stand for the raising of the flag and the national anthem. Traditionally, the flag raising has been accompanied by a variety of bands from the Big Island, as well as O'ahu. Following, Richard Smart would announce the year's honorees and then "let the games begin," which consisted of a series of races (relays, quarter mile grade, three-eighths and three-quarter mile thoroughbred), reining, wild-cow milking and roping.
In 1963, a large banner proclaimed "Keiki 0 Ka Aina," designating the meet as Frances I' i Brown Day. "It was one of the largest turnouts in years. Weather was good, the track fast and beaming through it all was Frances I' i Brown, whose day it was."
That year the Boy Scouts handled the flag raising, Kent Bowman manned the mike and Morgan Brown judged the events. Yutaka Kimura came in first on the quarter-mile race, riding" Thunderbird"; Masa Kawamoto, riding "Miracle," made first in reining and calf roping; and barrel racing was won by Joe Hui on "Lucky Legs."
Jiro Yamaguchi and son, Mark in the Double Mugging
Although the next year's meet began with a snafu that prevented Schofield Barracks' Second Brigade, Twenty-fifth Division band from arriving on time, this did not affect Masa Kawamoto's stellar performance. Teaming up with "Miracle," Masa took the Linfoot trophies for best horseman and best horse. The prized silver bowls were his for keeps, after winning three years running. Also honored that year was Willie Kaniho, Sr., a sixty-nine year old veteran of the ranch. John Wayne, in the islands filming "In Harm's Way," was on hand to sign autographs.
Cold, misty Waimea weather set the scene for the 1966 celebration, which honored Neal S. Blaisdell, then mayor of Honolulu. The flag raising was serenaded by the Konawaena High School Band, who were "nattily outfitted in their green and white uniforms. . . [and] opened the day's festivities with a snappy march."
"Perhaps the weather was a little unsettling for the horses, or maybe they were a little bored because that year the race events. ..were packed with extra thrills... [when] some of the horses chose not to compete in the races but to put on a wild west bucking exhibition."
Two special events took place in 1966. There was a calf tying for budding paniolo and paniola eleven to fifteen years; the first and second place winners were Valerie and Joel Hui (children of cowboy Joe Hui and Aletha Lindsey). Also that year, was an old-timers roping exhibition with Willie Kaniho, 71; Yutaka Kimura, 61; Joe Pacheco, 62; Frank Vierra, 60 and Henry Ah Sam, Sr., 68, who all learned their roping skills many years ago on the wide open range lands of Parker Ranch. A new award, the Parker Ranch riding stable perpetual trophy, was added for the trainer of the winning thoroughbred. Wild Cow The following year's celebration belonged to Yutaka Kimura, who retired in 1967 after forty-nine years of service. "As the paniolo paraded past the reviewing stand, they were led by flag bearers Joe Pacheco, Billy Boy Lindsey, Charley Stevens and Walter Stevens. Leading the riders was Yutaka Kimura, honoree, on his favorite palomino. He paused at the finish line and watched his buddies file by, then galloped out of the track and up to the reviewing stand. With the graceful style that is his signature, Yutaka bid aloha saying, "Although I am leaving, my heart will always remain with Parker Ranch."
Below: Wild Cow Milking--always a crowd pleaser.
In 1968, the celebration was an emotional one that was filled with losses. The tragic death of John Hu, "who was killed as a result of an accident early one morning in the Puuhue corral when his horse suddenly and without warning leaped up into the air falling backward on John...", was commemorated by the presentation of a flag to the Paka Paniolo Horsemen's Association from Johns family during the 1968 opening ceremonies. A moment of silence was also observed in memory of Billy Boy Lindsey and Pedro Delos Santos, who had recently passed away.
Highlights of the races saw Jiro Yamaguchi come in a winner in team roping with Masa Kawamoto, as well as Jiro and Molly Yamaguchi's son Mark winning the Shetland pony race. Also, Masa Kawamoto's six-year monopoly of the best horseman trophy was broken by Louis Akana, riding "Cherokee Rose."
The 1997 Fourth of July meet, focusing on one hundred and fifty years of ranching, will open its Horse Races and Rodeo at 1:00 p.m. at Paniolo Park with a grand parade, including all current employees riding, as well as some retirees. Les Keiter, radio announcer and experienced rodeo caller, will take care of the commentary. Featured events are the relay, quarterhorse racing, team cow sorting, wild cow milking, dally team roping and double mugging. There will be concessions and a Parker Store booth. The public is invited to enter the gates at 7:30 p.m. for the fireworks display scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Parker Ranch office or on race day, at the gate. For more information, call 885-7311.
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