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Department of Defense May Rain on Makawao’s Paniolo Parade

March 31, 2015, 1:34 PM HST · Updated March 31, 2:40 PM
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Makawao Paniolo Parade 2013. Photo credit Debra Lordan.

Makawao Paniolo Parade 2013. Photo credit Debra Lordan.

By Debra Lordan

According to the newly formed Save Our Parade – Save Our Parking Lot group, a community meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Makawao Elementary School Cafeteria to discuss the future of an Upcountry tradition–this year’s 50th Annual Makawao Paniolo Parade.

“If the parade were not to happen, it would be the first time in 50 years for the community to go without the annual event,” said community group organizer Nicole Fisher and volunteer parade organizer Theresa Thompson.

The sticking point is that Thompson was informed last July by state Department of Defense Col. Ronald P. Han, the local director of cemeteries appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, that she would no longer be permitted to stage her horse unit in the Makawao Veterans Cemetery parking lot on Baldwin Avenue, saying the activity is disrespectful to the veterans and their families.

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Thompson has written letters about the issue to Gov. David Ige and The Maui News.

In response, Lt. Col. C. Anthony, director of Public Affairs for the DOD, said they were “just following federal rules.”

Thompson said the root of the problem is more likely the fact that the cemetery is to receive a large federal grant that Thompson estimates at $6.7 million for improvements, including a new design for the parking lot, new lanes with curbs and a six-foot fence with a locked gate.

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It will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. once this happens,” said Thompson. “No permits have been pulled yet, but in advance of this, it seems they just want me out.”

“The appropriateness of an activity on state VA cemetery property is determined by the individual cemetery directors,” US Army Veteran Robert Parrish said in response to Thompson’s letter in The Maui News. He said that although neither federal nor state rules specifically allow staging a parade on VA cemetery property, “they do not specifically disallow it either. There are no restrictions prohibiting preauthorized events such as the staging for a community’s patriotic parade on VA property… nor in the federal regulation for security and law enforcement that would stand in the way of the state qualifying for improvement funding.”

Parrish said the cemetery director is allowed to authorize and/or make exceptions for cultural purposes or events such as Makawao’s Fourth of July parade.

“It is with great honor and respect that we conduct the parade on that day,” said Thompson, who has been the parade’s coordinator for 20 years. “Fourth of July celebrates the birth of our country–the country these veterans fought for and died for. We are calm, quiet and very respectful.”

Thompson said the County of Maui has always been very cooperative in the past, providing road closure signs, cones and  street sweepers to cleanup after the horses on the parade route. No incidents occurred in any previous year to warrant this change of policy, Thompson said. A family has even volunteered this year to thoroughly clean the staging area after the parade.

“The county has no jurisdiction over this federal land, so it so can’t give permission,” said Thompson. “The county did get permission from Haliʻimaile Pineapple Co. to use an adjacent fallow field for staging the horse unit. But moving to a muddy, uneven field would expose horses to possible injuries and lead to carefully groomed animals getting splattered with mud before beginning to make their way up the parade route. The cemetery parking lot is the only staging area that is safe.”

“My dad, Charley Thompson, was the parade’s first grand marshal in 1965,” Thompson said. “My family has been involved one way or another–forever. We’re a cowboy town–a historic paniolo town. That is how we roll–on horses. Col. Han could make an exception–they need to make an exception. What’s a paniolo parade without horses?”

“I am a US Army veteran, and when I am buried in the VA cemetery in my community of Makawao, I would look forward to, expect and be honored to have Theresa and her successors carry on the traditions of our community’s patriotic heritage in the same manner as they have these many past years,” added Parrish.

Maui Now has not received a reply from Col. Han as of 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, March. 31. Updates will be published as new information is made available.

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