Sunday | July 24, 2016
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Keeping the Country (Fair) country Nearly three decades later, Kohala event bigger than ever

Every year it seems the Kohala Country Fair gets a little bigger while still maintaining its North Kohala country appeal.

Hundreds of Big Islanders and visitors alike descended upon Kapaau on Saturday to enjoy all that the fair, now in its 28th year, has to offer. More than 135 booths covered the Polohono Ranch grounds offering an array of items and activities including crafts, jewelry, games, clothing, plants and plenty of food.

Kapaau resident Britney Antonio said she has been attending the country fair for many years. She remembers when the fair was held below the banyan tree and near the King Kamehameha I statue in the middle of Kapaau.

Though the event has grown significantly over the years, to the point where organizers in 2011 moved it to the 10 acre ranch located just outside of Kapaau, it is still the same fair with a country appeal that many equate with the North Kohala district.

“It’s still country – not city,” said Antonio, who attended the event with her 1 ½-year-old daughter, Alazel. “It’s really grown; I don’t think today it would fit back where it was held.”

Antonio said she specifically came to the event to support her Kohala neighbors. She also wants her daughter to socialize and be part of the community.

“I came for the community, to help them out and support everyone,” she said. “I want to help keep this place (Kapaau) going.”

The Kohala Country Fair, coordinated by the all-volunteer Kohala Country Fair Committee, was first held in 1984, when the area was reeling from the closure of a local sugar mill, said Kathie Babben, committee publicity chairwoman. With many people out of work, the town needed a day for residents to gather and simply enjoy themselves.

This year the fair’s theme was to “Celebrate Kohala,” Babben said. The fair committee chose the theme to promote Kohala and all it has to offer to residents and those visiting from outside the district.

“Kohala is a beautiful place that is still very pristine with a lot of open space,” she said. “We celebrate this by bringing the community together and having a great time.”

Also, this year the event featured a “Made in Kohala” tent offered to area residents whose items are made in the area. Babben said the fair committee came up with the idea to promote North Kohala as well as provide small vendors a discount-rate table in the tent.

“We want to support the little entrepreneurs that are at our farmers market every weekend,” she explained. “It’s important for Kohala to support the little guys because everybody’s trying make it work out here.”

Approximately 20 local vendors, offering everything from homemade pickled ginger, jellies and breads to soaps, jewelry and carved items, snatched up the opportunity. One of those vendors was Aunty Mamo’s and Aunty Agnes’ Homemade Goodies, which had a table loaded with various homemade breads, poha berry jelly, pickled ginger, mango and plum, and other goodies available for sale.

Agnes Kaholo, who helped found the company more than a decade ago said Saturday’s fair was the first one she has taken part in and sales were doing good. Kaholo, who regularly sells baked and canned goods at the Kapaau farmers market, hopes to have a table at next year’s Kohala Country Fair.

“We need this in Kohala,” she said as fair attendees perused the company’s offerings.