By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hilo Jaycees invite the public to kick off autumn with the 63th annual Hawaii County Fair.
The fair will be held from Thursday through Sunday at the Hilo Civic fairgrounds. It runs from 5:30 p.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Daily admission is $5 for adults, $3 for keiki ages 4-12. Children ages 3 and under are admitted free, as are seniors 65 and older with valid government-issued ID.
As always, the fair will feature the E.K. Fernandez midway of rides and games, and there are two new rides this year: the Jungle Twist and the Magic Maze fun house.
The Magic Maze is a completely new ride that has just touched down in Hawaii. It was showcased first in Kon,a and it’s second showcase is going to be in Hilo,” said Kelton Chang of the Hilo Jaycees. “I was at the Kona fair, and I watched people of all ages go in, so it’s an attraction. You walk in, you go through the maze, you walk up to the second floor and then you slide down the slide.”
Donna Smith, Fernandez Events executive vice president, said that the mirror-mazed fun house seemed to be as entertaining for bystanders as for participants.
“People standing there watching the ride can see the people going through, at least a portion of it, and they appeared to be having fun, too,” she said.
Smith described the Jungle Twist as “a nice little family-type coaster ride.”
“It goes over a coaster track, but the individual cars spin also,” she said.
Added Chang: “It’s a pretty unique ride, and I think people are going to enjoy it.”
On Saturday, fair-goers can purchase a 10-ride wristband for $30 between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The ride tabs on the wristband are good until 6 p.m. Saturday.
“The tabs cannot be pulled off,” Chang said. “They have to be on the wristband while you’re in the line. The attendant will pull them off for you. You rip them off, they become null and void.”
Then on Sunday, the Hilo Jaycees is holding a food drive, and admission is free for adults who bring three cans of non-perishable food and children who bring two cans, as long as the cans are not beyond their expiration date.
For those seeking a break from the rides, there’s a stellar lineup of entertainment, with longtime local favorites such as Darlene Ahuna, Sudden Rush, Bruddah Waltah Aipolani, and Butch Helemano and the Players of Instruments, as well as newer faves including Ryan Hiraoka, Kimie and Komakakino.
Also back by popular demand, Chang said, is spray-paint artist Wayne Gabaylo.
“He does spray-can painting on canvas,” Chang said. “He makes murals of volcanoes, trees, rivers, mountains. Whatever the public wants him to paint, he’ll create right in front of you.”
And, if that’s not enough reason to go to the fair, there’s always the food.
“We have the traditional hot dogs and soda,” Chang said. “We have Hilo-style loco moco. We do have prime rib this year; we have some barbecue guys coming in. Some of them were featured in the 4th of July barbecue contest. We have Thai food, Hawaiian food, ice cream. So many kinds of food. Everybody should be happy.”
The Jaycees are also holding a membership drive, as well, hoping to recruit new members ages 21-40.
“On that pass is a ticket to get in and on the side of that is a voucher for membership,” Chang said. “We are going to have a booth in the Butler building that’s going to be used for our membership drive. Anybody who wants to become a member of the Hilo Jaycees can come in and sign up. Membership fees are $46 for one year. Basically, we’re a youth leadership organization that builds young leaders in our community.”
There’s an old joke in Hilo that when E.K. Fernandez comes to town, it’s time to break out the umbrellas. But as Chang noted, a good time will be had by all, regardless.
“We’re gonna hope and pray that we don’t get any rain, but if it does, we hope people will still come out and enjoy,” he said.
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune -herald.com.