Cherry Blossom Festival Honors Three Paniolo

The 19th Annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival remembers three Paniolo Hall of Fame members who each offered different skills to the island’s ranching industry: Jamie Dowsett and Charles T. Kimura of Waimea and Charles T. Onaka of Honaunau.

Jamie Dowsett

The trio will be recognized at the start of the 9 a.m.-3 p.m. community festival on Saturday, Feb. 4. Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi will honor the men with a commemorative plaque on the entertainment stage behind Parker Ranch Center.

Jamie Dowsett, 87, is the senior of the honorees and a descendant of prominent Oahu rancher James I. Dowsett. Jamie earned a degree in ranch management, animal science and pre-veterinary medicine from Oregon State University. During his lifetime, he worked for and managed four ranches: Parker, Puuwaawaa, Dillingham and Mokuleia. He also saw stints in the military during two wars and served as principal broker for his company: Great Hawaii Properties.

Always aspiring to live his life as a paniolo, Dowsett also owned and operated his own ranch for most of his life. Having considerable talent on the back of a horse, he became one of Hawaii’s accomplished calf and team ropers. While the octogenarian no longer rides the range, he continues to enjoy the rodeo circuit.

Born in 1931, Charles T. Kimura joined Parker Ranch as a 12-year-old fence “boy,” and worked for nearly five decades before retiring in 1996. Like his paniolo father, Yutaka Kimura, Charles was interested in animal husbandry and improving stock. Starting as a cowboy, he began working with Parker Ranch’s registered Hereford herd, becoming foreman of the Makahalau and Paaukau sections before serving as Mana superintendent and Ka’u Division manager.

Charles found that crossbreeding was the answer to genetic improvement. According to the Paniolo Hall of Fame website, Charles felt a “proper environment” was necessary for genetic improvement of stock and his “enlightened approach led to holistic resource management as an operational goal.”

Kona native Charles T. Onaka of Honaunau rounds out the list of honorees. Born in 1941, he earned a degree in animal science before working on Oahu at Hawaii Meat Company. Back on Hawaii Island, he served as a University of Hawaii extension agent for Hamakua, becoming active with the 4-H beef steer program. After working as a soil conservationist for the USDA, he managed the feedlot at Puako for T.H. Davies. Onaka says his most cherished employment was as a foreman at Parker Ranch.

Since 1973, Charlie has overseen the operation of Onaka Ranch, which was founded in 1914 by his grandfather, Kiichi Onaka, who emigrated from Japan. Ranching is a family affair and the Onakas also grow mac nuts and their Onaka Ranch Kona Cowboy Coffee. Charlie enjoys Hawaii tree saddle making and is active in several organizations, including the Paniolo Preservation Society.

In addition to recognizing the paniolo, the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival offers a wide range of activities that sprawl eastward from the Parker Ranch Historic Homes on Mamalahoa Hwy. 190 to the Hawaiian Homestead Farmer’s Market on Hwy. 19—look for pink banners identifying site locations. Enjoy Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus demonstrations of bonsai, origami, tea ceremony and mochi pounding, plus a host of colorful craft fairs.

New this year is a Festival of Quilts display at Kahilu Hall featuring the handiwork of all six local quilt clubs. There will also be a special planting of cherry tree seedlings at Church Row Park—they were gifted from the Embassy of Japan. The festival offers free shuttle transportation among venues, including the newly added Paniolo Heritage Center at Pukalani Stables, where attendees can enjoy paniolo pancakes and a photo exhibit on Paniolo Kepani (Japanese cowboys). For festival info, 808-961-8706.