Ohana Kuleana Community Garden celebrated its open house and the 91st birthday of its master gardener with hula dancing, grilled veggies and a birthday carrot cake on Sunday.
Ananda Foley, founder of Durango Hula Ohana, choreographed several of the dances performed Sunday including the opening dance celebrating the sunshine performed to John Denver’s “Sunshine on my Shoulders.”
“Hula is like a language,” Foley said. “Hawaiians didn’t have a written language, and so hula was a way to pass down the stories. It was like a sign language.”
Anywhere between five and 14 people attend Durango Hula Ohana gatherings to learn dances and celebrate native Hawaiian culture.
Besides learning hula dancing, Foley said Durango Hula Ohana teaches members about native Hawaiian culture.
Melanie Canode, one of the dancers, said during a visit to the Big Island in 2011 that happened to coincide with the island’s biggest festival, the Merrie Monarch, she became fascinated with Hawaiian culture. And when she returned home, she eventually discovered Durango Hula Ohana.
“I was having hip problems, and hula really helped. It helped physically big time. It helps brain functioning, and the people in this group are some of the kindest I’ve been with in years,” she said.
Before the hula dances, community gardeners gathered around Marye Jackson to celebrate her 91st birthday.
“Everyone around here learns from Marye,” said community gardener Bruce Spining. “She’s the wisdom.”
The community garden is in its 10th year, and Chris Paulson said the area’ soil improves every year with care from the gardeners. Initially, the plot of land was mostly road base, and a year of hard work went into making the grounds suitable for gardening.
Now, the garden offers free water, deer fencing and tips from expert gardeners like Jackson.
A full plot, 150 square feet, rents for $80 per growing season plus four hours per month volunteer time. A half plot rents for $40 per growing season and four hours per month volunteer time.