Dating back to 1954, Honokaʻa Western Week is among the most highly anticipated Big Island festivals. To honor a century-old paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) heritage, the town of Honokaʻa serves up a unique cultural blend of rodeo sports, high-energy events, music, food, and education every May.
Like last year, Western Week’s organizers moved the Saloon Girls and Cowboys Got Talent Show from downtown Honokaʻa to the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea for a livestream event, but last Tuesday, an audience was allowed to see the event in person. And what a rowdy bunch they were.
The show was recorded and will be presented on the big screen at the Honokaʻa People’s Theatre on May 21 at 5:30 p.m.
Multi-talented Kat Reuss introduced eleven acts and did an excellent job singing several country songs throughout the evening. The talent lineup included Scott Bucholz, Higgs, Elliot Reddekopp, Marianne Bacon, Diannalee, Hannah Kaplon, Dagan Bernstein, Robert Savery, Rachel Scott, and Da Paniolo Boys. Local fiddle player Jeffrey Quin accompanied many of the musicians in their performances.
Seated at the judge’s table were local business owner Mike Bennett, Kahilu Theatre’s Executive Director Sara Nealy, Prince Dance Institute’s Noelani Anderson, and singer/comedienne Leah Webster (aka Pinkie Fingers).
The contestants were judged on talent and technical ability, stage presence, costume, and creativity. The winners this year were musicians and received cash prizes.
And the Winners are…
First place: Robert Savery
Original song: “Local Grown”
Artist’s comments: Local Grown is a shout-out to all those who grew up here in Hawaii. I grew up on windward Oahu surfing the North Shore while sustaining myself on dry squid and tomoe ame rice candy. I went barefoot and didn’t wear shoes until 7th grade. We hiked Olomana mountain, swam in the pools of Maunawili, and fished for tilapia in Enchanted Lakes. This majestic beauty of Hawaii and its people I still enjoy today.
My newest project is working with some great local musicians in a new band to play live gigs. I’ve mostly played singer/songwriter coffee shop gigs for the last ten years, but it feels like it’s time to get back to playing with a fully electrified band.
Second place: Hannah Kaplon
Original song: “Frenemy”
Artist’s comments: This song is about an experience that I think everybody has had. Like when someone you think you know as a friend, but you just don’t know where you stand with them and if they’re really your friend. The situation in the song resolves itself when the main character finds solid ground and is okay with how the ‘frenemy’ acts and understands their motivations.”
I will be releasing my third single, Time For You, this summer and will be working on a music video shot at the Kahilu Theatre.
Third place: Elliot Redekopp”
Cover song: “Cover Me Up”
Artist’s comments: I was born and raised in Paauilo, played in Honokaʻa Jazz Band, and am a regular at the Pukalani Stables Farmers Market on Saturdays.
I picked Cover Me Up because a close friend once said it would sound great with my voice, so I decided to play it at the talent contest.
Listen to interviews with the contestants
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: ©2022 Steve Roby