The green pastures of Waiki‘i Ranch may look like a flash from the past on September 16th, as Old Hawai‘i on Horseback makes a grand re-entry. Here, horses help tell the story of Hawaii’s history, from the first mare and colt to set hooves on island soil, to the fabulous pā‘ū riders in their rainbow of flowing costume, and the flags and brands of proud riders repping today’s ranches.
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This beautiful event is part pageant, part parade, part rodeo grand promenade. It’s also an important an homage to its memorable originator, Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske. Anna was the unofficial First Lady of Waimea, and her story is one of courage and determination, and a fabulous life well lived. Read more about Anna.
The first Old Hawai‘i on Horseback (OHOH) took place in 1963 at Anna Ranch, her generational family home. Anna wrote the script, designed all the costumes and directed the production herself. With a reputation as a woman who didn’t take no for an answer, she was able to recruit the “actors” she wanted from the local community, as well as their horses. You can read more about Anna in this Waimea Gazette article.
One of the early events* was filmed for KGMB TV’s kupuna-themed program “Pau Hana Years.” In it, we see 1,000 or more people on the lawn at Anna Ranch, wearing papale and sunglasses, fanning themselves with paper programs. In the audience are newer Waimea residents, Mr. & Mrs. Laurance S. Rockefeller, who acquired a residence in town while the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel was being built.
The Grand Marshall was sixth-generation Parker Ranch heir, Richard Smart, in full cowboy regalia. He cantered once around the paddock, stopped to call for a round of applause for “My darling Anna,” and then present her with a lei. That year, following the presentation of the colors, a mounted George Washington and Betsy Ross rode by to acknowledge their contributions to the American flag. After them rode Captain James Cook, who arrived well before horses did.
Other historic figures included John Palmer Parker Sr., Captain George Vancouver, who brought the first cows to Hawai‘i. Richard Cleveland led a mare a colt to represent the first horses which he brought to Hawai‘i. The King and Uueen of OHOH were played by Albert and Stella Akana—he in a gold feather helmet and she in stunning pā‘ū. Martin Purdy rode as his famous father, rodeo champion Ikua Purdy. Princess Ka’iulani and other Hawaiian monarchs, costumed for their era, appeared with escorts.
Beautiful horsewomen graced the arena, as pā‘ū princesses representing each island, and ladies in 19th century white habits with plumed hats paraded past. The Queen of the Merrie Monarch Festival made an appearance, at a time when the festival was still very new. Anna herself flew around the arena on a favorite mount, demonstrating her skill riding sidesaddle. (A short-lived English fad in Hawai‘i, where wāhine far preferred the more practical and comfortable riding astride.)
OHOH took place every other year from 1964-83, nine times in all. In 1996, Paniolo Preservation Society revived this grand tradition, and hosted it five times. In 2008, OHOH took place in Minuke Ole Park, as a key event in the Great Waiomina Centennial Celebration, and the Year of the Paniolo. The last performance of OHOH happened in 2019, as part of Paniolo Preservation Society’s 18-month celebration of Nā Wāhine Holo Lio. Read the full story from Hawai’i Tribune Herald.
We can’t wait to welcome back one of our very favorite all time events. Paniolo Preservation Society is honored to carry on Anna’s legacy, and the beautiful paniolo traditions, in Old Hawai‘i on Horseback.
*”Pau Hana Years” host Bob Barker (not the Price Is Right one) says that the film footage is “from a few years ago,” but no specific date is mentioned. Our best guess is 1966-70. A clip is posted here, but you need permission from the archivist to watch the whole video. http://uluulu.hawaii.edu/titles/24849