Heroic efforts produce homecoming floats


Photo by Faith Owan

Freshmen Kealaokapuamakamae Aquino and Tyson Haupu hold up a part of their float-in-the-making. The seniors prevailed in the homecoming game float competition that was the culmination of spirit week on Sept. 27, 2014.

Electric saws buzz.

Foam guns ooze.

And, students paint to island rhythms.

That’s right — it’s float-building time.

Every year for Kamehameha Maui’s homecoming, each high school class competes in events like the Battle of the Bands and Boys Cheer. One of these events is a competition to create a float that will represent their classs.

While some events have come and gone, the halftime parade of floats has been a feature every year.

“It started with our first graduating class which was 2006, so we had our first parade in 2005,” said Ms. Naomi Ashman, student activities coordinator.

She said that the first floats were constructed on golf carts and motorized vehicles, known as mules. This required that the mules and carts be removed from service for a week or so before the parade, inconveniencing various campus departments. There were also problems with breakdowns. In fact, there was more than one float that had to be pushed along the track.

“So, four years ago, we started with the platform [system],” Ms. Ashman said.

The platforms are 4 by 8 pieces of plywood with wheels on the bottom. They are pulled along the course by parading students. The new system gave students more options than the motorized vehicles, which would need to return to service the next day, and, thus, restricted what was possible.

“So, the classes can build them as high as they want, they can build them out – wide – or long,” Ms. Ashman said. “There have been all kinds of floats that people have built and put all kinds of things on them i.e. volcanoes that erupt and little globes that go around in circles, and smoke, and music, and all kinds of things.”

This year’s theme of E Maikaʻi A Paʻa Hana, or Be Good and Industrious, was reflected in each of the class’s float designs. To narrow down the many possible interpretations, the student government decided to assign one of the Hawaiian islands to each of the classes.

“During the summer the student council met and brainstormed and came up with ideas…from there, the classes just brainstorm on their end, how they’re going to build it, what the design is and that kind of stuff. The advisers approve the design,” Ms. Ashman said.

Each class also chose a hero to represent in their designs.

The freshmen produced a float with a cresting wave and a quote from surfer Bethany Hamilton inscribed on it. It also had a shark, multiple surfboards, and a light display that decorated the top.

Freshman president Hunter Worth said, “We have a board to represent Bethany Hamilton and a wave to represent the wave she rides. We have Kauaʻi, and she’s from Kauaʻi. She’s just amazing. She’s very strong.”

The process of making a float is time consuming and requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Sometimes the productivity goes up until the last minute. On the Wednesday prior to the big game, the freshman class was hard at work.

“We plan to have everything assembled by Friday, but we know that’s not going to happen, so we’re going to come in on Saturday and work on it,” freshman Kealaokapuamakamae “Makamae” Aquino said, 

Each class goes through its own process to reach the final product on the day of the homecoming game.

“For our float, we actually went through many different drawings and everything,” Aquino said.

In making the floats, students learn the basics of construction.

“It’s just been a challenge to form everything and get it to stay and [be] compact, but once we got the foundation, like the chicken wire and the paper mache, it’s simple[r] and easier now,” sophomore president Kulia Fernandez said.

Sophomore Taylor Ching said, “First we started with chicken wire, then we did paper mache, then we painted it, and then we put some great stuff on it. The officers [came up with the design].”

The sophomores’ float had Pele as its hero, represented by a volcano with her face on the front and with smoke billowing from the top.

The junior class created a float that represented American military heroes. Their float was shaped like an army tank, with a picture of a saluting soldier — late football coach Kraig Vickers — above the display. At the back of the tank, a custom American flag stood, with pink stripes (the class color) replacing the red.

“What we did is we painted the entire thing first, and then we built it into the platform, and then we added the little details,” junior Tea Kauhaa-Po said,

For their final homecoming, the seniors worked diligently to put their first-place float together, including a sleepover on campus on the weekend prior to spirit week.

“We had people bring in whatever ideas they had,…and we kind of combined a bunch to create what we have now. We constructed a bunch of individual pieces during our sleepover, and then on Saturday [the day of homecoming] we’re going to put the whole thing together,” said senior Jaye-lin Orikasa on the Thursday before the big game.

The seniors presented a float dedicated to George Helm and Kimo Mitchell, Native Hawaiians who were among the leaders of the movement to reclaim Kahoʻolawe from the U.S. military and raise awareness of the damage done to it. They disappeared in bad weather amid a series of landings on the island to protest its use as a bombing target.

The float was constructed with silhouettes of the two men. Behind each one was a longboard with four stripes, one stripe in each of the four class colors.

In the end, behind the seniors’ first-place entry, the sophomore float placed 2nd, the freshmen placed 3rd and the juniors placed 4th.