Saddle up for the 59th Annual Makawao Rodeo (July 3-6) and the 49th Annual Makawao Paniolo Parade (July 5). The Rodeo never ceases to entertain with four full days of qualifying rounds, bull-riding, team-roping, mugging, barrel racing and more. Friday’s Bull Bash will amp the crowd for Saturday’s Colorful Hawaiian Style Parade (9am-11pm), complete with rodeo royalty, pa’u riders, classic cars, cowboys, cowgirls and local celebrities. Park at the Oskie Rice Arena Rodeo Grounds and take the free shuttle to the parade (7-9am) and then back to the rodeo grounds(11:30am). Rodeo: $15 Adults, $10 Seniors, Students, $5 Kids. Oskie Rice Arena (Olinda Rd., Makawao), mauimapp.com/rodeo.htm
At the Oskie Rice Arena, the Friday night lights hung in the damp, mid-December Hawaiian air. Beaming through Maui’s notorious red clay dust, the lights served as a backdrop to one of the Upcountry’s biggest annual events. On the metal bleachers, families were bundled against their idea of the cold: a winter chill that sank just below 60 degrees. There were coats, blankets and hoodie strings pulled tight. There was Portuguese soup and Puerto Rican stew at the family-run concession stands, where the handwritten menus were scrawled in thick felt marker, crossed through as the “onolicious” fried ice cream or pork with tofu and macaroni ran out.
All around us, children treated the bleachers as a jungle gym, climbing and dangling and hopping from bench to bench. On the highest bleacher, a girl with sun-streaked hair and sun-kissed skin popped up at my feet like a mischievous gopher. Startling me, she shrieked, giggled and monkeyed away. On the grass, behind the arena’s wire-and-post fence, a little boy in a tan cowboy hat paced in black cowboy boots with tiny silver spurs.
The rodeo was about to begin.
When most mainlanders picture Maui, they see surfers sliding down mammoth waves, bays crowded with sailboats and waterfalls alongside the ragged, verdant Hana Highway. But the Upcountry, which sweeps across the island’s interior and climbs the volcanic foothills of Haleakala, is another Hawaii. Instead of beaches, surf shacks and shaved ice stands, the region has chilled air; sprawling, multigenerational cattle ranches; and a paniolo — Hawaiian cowboy — tradition that precedes its mainland American counterpart by half a century.
“They were running horses up here,” a trail guide would later tell me, “when they were still settling the Midwest.”
If you go to Hawaii and don’t watch people surf then you’ve missed a big part of the culture. Even in Makawao, the town full of cowboys, hippies and art that was my first stop on Maui, I found a little surf shop. Hawaiians will be Hawaiian.
That said, there’s something different about the little drive to Makawao, something authentic. You have to pass through the trendy town of Pa’ia, which is also has a hippy and artistic flavor to it, although its far more developed and crowded than Makawao to the south along Route 390.
They have some charming little restaurants and shops in Pa’ia, which is a great place to meet up with friends in one of the fudge, coffee or ice cream shops.
Cafe Des Amis in Pa’ia has a very hospitable staff and fabulous crepes. There was a cute 30-year-old (I asked) Australian working behind the counter when I was there the first time and when I asked if they were on Twitter, he said: “What’s that?”
Along the way, there aren’t a lot of “big things” to see and do, but if you pay close enough attention, you’ll catch the smaller charming things you should take in, like the Hali’imaile General Store. There are sugar cane fields in all directions, all irrigated by water from the Hana coast.
Located on the mid-slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano, Makawao has one foot in its plantation past and another in its arts community. While this town is far from big, it is apparently the biggest little town in the region locally known as Upcountry Maui and is famous for its Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolo. While it may not feel quite as upcountry as it does further south along Route 377, it does cool off a little at night, although it was very hot and sunny when I was there.
FIRST PHOTO: Makawao Rodeo 2012 Queen Lauren Egger (on barrel) and Princess Jessica Hartley get the royal treatment from Hartley’s horse Sonny while competing in a Rescue Race at the Upcountry Farm and Ag Fair on Saturday afternoon at Oskie Rice Arena in Olinda. In the race, competitors must saddle their horse and race to rescue their partner stranded atop a barrel.
SECOND PHOTO: This duo toppled the barrel, however, and Sonny bolted into the air, landed with stiff legs and knocked the girls out of the race. The event also featured the Maui 4-H Livestock Show and Auction. The two-day event concludes today with animal showmanship contests scheduled to start at 9 a.m.
Makawao Rodeo 2011
ANNUAL MAKAWAO RODEO – A very exciting rodeo event presented by the Maui Roping Club – more than 350 paniolos (cowboys) attend the rodeo from all over the world. Oskie Rice Rodeo Arena, Makawao Rodeo, a mile above Makawao town, on Olinda Road at Kaanaolo Ranch on Maui. This Hawaiian style rodeo, with rough stock and roping events, features rodeo clowns. Before and after the rodeo, enjoy live entertainment and country western dancing. For more information call (808) 572-8102.