The rain has finally abated to a steady drizzle. We have had 7.92 inches of rain in 24 hours – the 2nd highest daily total in Hawaiian history. Who knew the sky could hold so much water? It should clear by evening, which is good because today marks the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which will be commemorated with a parade through Waikiki.
We start the day at Kona Coffee, home of the cheesy cheese croissant. The queue is enormous and daughter no 1 wants to try somewhere less busy but I will not be deterred from reaching my cheesy cheese croissant. Cheesy mission accomplished, we walk to the beach and daughter no 1 goes for a swim. I cannot be persuaded because 1) the waves are scarily big, 2) I read there was a shark attack on Hawaii yesterday, 3) fear of being run over by a surfer and 4) there are people much more agile than me failing to exit the ocean with dignity as the waves sweep them off their feet. So instead I sit on the beach with the wussier tourists and homeless people.
Then we walk to an area where a sea wall blocks most of the waves (and sharks) for my old lady swim, then back up the beach so daughter no 1 can enjoy the waves. While she is swimming, an old man dressed as Hawaiian Santa walks past clearly enjoying all the attention as people stop to take selfies with him.
In the afternoon, one last wander round Waikiki. It’s getting very busy as participants head towards the park where the parade will assemble. We pass a group of 600 Varsity cheerleaders walking along the strip in their red, white and blue outfits and star spangled masks. Their leader rather optimistically attempts to get all 600 across a pedestrian crossing on one green light. After a stop for happy hour Mai tais, we find a spot on the side of the road to watch the parade.
The parade commemorates the attack on Pearl Harbor, which killed thousands of Americans and launched the US into WW2. It consists of 93 groups – as well at the cheerleaders, there are marching bands, bands on floats, bikes and classic cars and balloons. For a British person, used to war memorial parades being sombre affairs, it feels rather strange to see everyone having such fun as the bands and cheerleaders pass by. The theme of the parade is ‘to honour veterans while recognising that once bitter enemies can become loyal friends’.
There are 107 WW2 veterans in the parade. Some are riding in classic cars, but most are pushed in wheelchairs (a couple actually walk). The crowd go crazy, shouting and cheering. The wheelchair pushers circle and zigzags across the road to prolong the vets’ moment of glory. Some come along the edge of the road and receive hundreds of high fives as they pass the cheering crowd. Some hand out postcards telling of their war service – we receive a card from a man who dropped out of school after Pearl Harbor to enlist, serving in the army for a couple of years before spending 9 months as a PoW in Stalag 12. The whole thing is very moving.
Then it’s on with the remainder of the parade. A couple of comic moments when a corvette driver tries to show off, revving up his engine. It overheats in a huge cloud of smoke and he has to get out and push his car along the remainder of the route.
And then the parade comes to a halt when a giant inflatable Purple Heart medal gets lodged between the traffic lights. When this happens, we are treated to an extended performance from a high school band doing an excellent rendition of Uptown Funk. It’s so good that we’re disappointed when the inflatable medal is wrangled loose and the band moves on.
After almost 2 hours of marching bands (who knew there were so many bagpipes players in America), seated bands on floats, the 600 cheerleaders, inflatables including an American eagle and a fighter jet and the USS Arizona (which sank in Pearl Harbor), cars adorned with Christmas decorations etc, the parade comes to an end. Our last evening in Hawaii has been quite special.