A little rain and gusty winds did not deter hundreds of spectators from enjoying the festivities at the 52nd annual July 4th Rodeo and Horse Races at the Parker Ranch Arena Friday in Waimea.
The event displayed the paniolo spirit of the islands, with events ranging from ranch mugging and team roping, to exhilarating horse races around the arena track.
“It is a wonderful event for the whole family,” said Nahua Guilloz, senior manager and corporate secretary for Parker Ranch. “I think what brings people out is the variety and the fact that it is a nonstop, action-packed event.”
Over its more than half-century existence, the event has become a staple of the Big Island’s Independence Day celebration, attracting visitors and paniolo-enthusiast alike.
“This is our 52nd, so we have got pretty good at this,” Parker Ranch CEO Neil “Dutch” Kuyper said. “It’s healthy competition, but sometimes I think there is some pretty good ribbing going on out there. It is also a really good opportunity for us to work with the community and get a lot of the ranching communities together.”
The event brought together Hawaii Island ranches to compete in the arena, as well as a group of paniolo from Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch. The quarter-mile, one-eighth-mile, and relay races provided the biggest thrills of the day, bringing spectators in the packed grandstand to their feet as the racers fought to the finish.
Away from the arena, children enjoyed horse rides and a petting zoo, while food trucks and local groups provided eats and entertainment.
“It’s early in the day, so people can come to an event like this and still be able to catch the fireworks later,” Guilloz said. “There is something for the kids, adults and even the racing enthusiast.”
Guilloz called the event a “play day” for the paniolo, but said the event plays an important role in perpetuating the culture of the island’s stewards.
“It helps to continue to show that agriculture is still important and that the paniolos in Hawaii are still alive and well,” Guilloz said.
“We like to think that Parker Ranch is the home of the paniolo because we are the oldest ranch,” Kuyper said. “I view it as an important part of our heritage. It is an incredibly high-quality of life. For the people who know it and love it, it is a passion.”