By Léo Azambuja

A painting of a gaucho drinking traditional South American mate, by Lielzo Azambuja, circa 1977.

My father is a true gaucho, born and raised in a cattle farm in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. As a full-time artist, his main subject has been the horse his whole life. Although I’m definitely more ocean-oriented, I have a strong connection with horses, cattle, ranches and rodeos because of my father.

So when Melissa McFerrin asked me if I wanted to write about the 20th edition of the Koloa Plantation Days Rodeo, I jumped on it right away. The experience couldn’t have been more rewarding.

I finally met Joyce Miranda. A true community asset, Joyce was the one who came up with the suggestion of putting together a “little rodeo” after the Koloa Plantation Days Parade a quarter century ago. Indeed, the first four rodeos were somewhat little, with a budget of about $500 to $600. When she proposed a larger rodeo, complete with bull riding and everything fun that a genuine rodeo must have, the bill for the event escalated to somewhere around $100,000. No problem. For 20 years thereafter, Joyce and a legion of community members made it happen through volunteer hours and a lot of grant writing.

Over the years, the rodeo has become the opening event of the Koloa Plantation Days Festival, one of the most iconic and important festivals on Kaua‘i. If you have never been to one of the rodeos, this is the year to attend it. If you have been to one, you know you don’t want to miss it.

I asked Joyce about the challenges of making a better event every year, and she smiled and said there is so much to be told. She already had plans for next year, before this special anniversary edition was even held. I truly admire people like that; I have a hard time planning my breakfast for the following day, let alone one of the most important events on an island with more than 70,000 residents and 30,000 visitors on any given day.

The excitement on Joyce’s voice, her enthusiasm when talking about the rodeo, gives away her love for the event and the community she serves. She grew up in a small rural community on the Mainland, where her high school had only about 25 students. As a youth, her whole life revolved around her local 4H Club, which infused in her a solid set of core of values.

“One of the things I took from my 4H Club was my duty for my club, my community, my country and my world,” she told me. “Those are my responsibilities in sharing knowledge, community service, those types of things. That has always been a real model for me, what I can do. You can’t just be on Earth and just be yourself; you have to go and make it a better place.”

The first time I learned about 4H clubs was on Molokai, in 2007. I was working for The Molokai Dispatch, and my assignment was to cover a 4H club auction. I was surprised to see 200-pound pigs selling for about $2, and almost bid on one. Later, back in the office, I shared a good laugh with my editor after realizing the bid was $2 per pound, so the pigs’ price tags were actually $400 and up. Power to those kids for saving money for a college education!

You should really try to make it to at least one of the three days of the Koloa Plantation Days Rodeo. It’s a really fun event for the whole family. This year, cowboy Manny Gonzales and his roping tricks will be one of the highlights of the event. So don’t miss it.

The rodeo will be held July 19-21. In Joyce’s own words, “You’re going to be a loser if you don’t come.” See you at the CJM Country Stables!