Kaimuki tradition burning bright

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Dec 23 2013 10:54:00 PM HST

Ukelele virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro, used social media and phone calls to mobilize volunteers to rewire the inside of the Kaimuki tree, replace the bulbs and organize a tree-lighting ceremony in just three days.

HONOLULU -

Jake Shimabukuro is known for his fast fingers flying on an ukulele, but this time the Hawaii musician's quick work helps keep the holidays bright for us all.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' report.

Many people may not even know about Puu o Kaimuki Mini Park, which overlooks the Kaimuki fire station, but ukulele virtuoso Shimabukuro knows it very well.

"This park is very special to me. The majority of songs I composed were written here at this park. It's been a long-standing tradition where you'll find the floating Christmas tree, and you can see it lit up from the H1 freeway," said Shimabukuro.

This year it looked like the tree would stay dark because of a lack of community volunteers and some very Grinch-like damage to the decades-old structure.

"Some guys climbed up and vandalized the tree and stepped on the wiring. That shorted out the whole circuit for the tree," said Shimabukuro's cousin Todd Mayeshiro, who also happens to be an electrician for the Hawaiian Electric Company.

Shimabukuro, who is known to get a crowd going with this music, instead used social media and even old-fashioned phone calls to mobilize volunteers. They rewired the inside of the tree, replaced the bulbs and organized a tree-lighting ceremony in just three days.

Monday evening nearly one hundred people came out to see the tree turned on, and the Kaimuki tradition continue.

"In Hawaii, we are one great big ohana. It is great to bring everyone together and celebrate the spirit of the holidays and Christmas," said Kakaako resident Marcia Caldirola.

With a flip of the switch, the lights began burning brightly once again, like they'll do each evening until the new year.

This is a Kaimuki tradition, but it is not just this community that enjoys the reminder of the holidays.

"It's always a symbol of Christmas. When I would see it while I was driving home I would say, 'It is Christmas.' It wouldn't go off until Christmas was over. It was a warm symbol and you could see it anywhere," said Hawaii Kai resident Eileen Ornelles.

Because the tree is exposed to the elements each year, the lights and wiring take a beating. Volunteers hope to get enough support to change out the old fashioned strings of light bulbs into more durable and more efficient LED lights in the future.

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