By Chris Takahashi | Staff Writer
The Honolulu Zoo Society (HZS) continues to attract an enthusiastic following for its annual summertime concert series, now celebrating 32 years of music performances at the stage lawn of the Honolulu Zoo. The event, held each Wednesday evening during the summer months, features ‘ukulele maestro Roy Sakuma as emcee and a distinguished lineup of local musicians that will perform weekly through August 16.
David Earles, Executive Director of the HZS, said that one unique aspect of the concert series is the wide appeal of live music in an intimate setting.
“People (are) coming into the zoo that otherwise would not be here,” observed Earles.
While the music performances begin at 6 p.m., the zoo gates open at 4:35 p.m. to let those in early to enjoy the pre-concert entertainment. There’s a weekly ‘ukulele giveaway, children’s coloring contest, and educational booth where people can learn about a different featured animal.
Last night’s show featured Maui-raised artist Kamakakehau Fernandez who is revered for both his ‘ukulele talent and falsetto singing talent. He played a number of original songs and even covered Olomana’s Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u to the excitement of the largely local crowd.
HZS Programs Coordinator Katee Walters said that the magic happens once the music starts, “kids run around, go up to the front and dance. It’s one of those really family-centered events.”
The weekly concert, dubbed “The Wildest Show in Town,” typically draws crowds of over 1,000, and there’s anticipation of double that number for the performance of Willie K in two weeks, on July 19.
Walters explained that although the tickets (admission is $5; free for children under age two) are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, people have already begun to call the zoo to reserve tickets for the Willie K concert.
The proceeds from ticket sales benefit a number of animal conservation projects supported by the zoo.
12-year old Kaili Takara, a student at Kaimukī Middle School, was at the educational booth sharing knowledge about the nēnē, a bird endemic to Hawaiʻi. Takara said her dream would be to someday work at the Honolulu Zoo, “I want to work with animals. I’ve always liked them and have had the compassion for them.”
In the meantime, while still only in middle school, she volunteers for the education camps held during breaks from school, sharing her knowledge with those her age and younger.
New this year to the concert series has been the implementation of themed nights. There was a keiki carnival theme on June 21 and the theme of “Come Together” will happen on August 9 when the Beatles cover band Beat-Lele performs.
Food and beverages, including plate lunch and shave ice, are also available for those that wish to picnic on the lawn. There’s a general merriment in the air as the weekly event attracts many repeat visitors.
Cal Chester, an employee of Service Systems Associates (SSA), the food and beverage provider for the Honolulu Zoo concert series, exclaimed, “the concert series is always full of locals that come back year after year which creates a really special community feel.”
One of those people that have enjoyed many summers listening to live music is Barbara Kamana. She remembers bringing her grandson to the event while he was just a child. Now her grandson is 24 years old.
Kamana was joined Wednesday evening by two of her friends and she beamed enthusiastically, “At 81 years old, we’re still going!”
The Honolulu Zoo summertime concert series is held each Wednesday evening this summer through August 16. For more information on the event, check out the concert information page on the zoo’s website.
[Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the accurate name of the Honolulu Zoo Society (HZS) which was previously and incorrectly referred to as the Honolulu Zoo Foundation. We apologize for the error.]