• Kona Historical Society Set to Reopen a Popular Outdoor Program

    June 11, 2020
    Kona Historical Society Set to Reopen a Popular Outdoor Program
    Weekly baking at the Portuguese Stone Oven begins June 18 

    Kona Historical Society has established a plan for reopening in stages, beginning with the relaunch of its Portuguese Stone Oven Baking Program. The Society is excited to welcome back the general public to this popular program with modifications and the implementation of numerous safety measures, which include an emphasis on cleaning, physical distancing practices, and the mandatory use of face masks or cloth coverings.

    “One of the most important ways we tell Kona's history at Kona Historical Society is through making it come alive, literally! Getting the oven fired up again and baking the bread that has fed our community for 140 years is a truly exciting first step to re-opening our sites," said Kona Historical Society Public Programs Manager Audrey Blair. 

    Starting June 18, the public is invited every Thursday to learn about the traditional art of Portuguese bread making, as well as the contributions of the Portuguese, who arrived in Hawaii in the 1880s and are credited for helping develop Kona’s dairy industry. There will be no public participation in the actual rolling or baking of bread.

    Instead, from 10 a.m. to noon in a designated observation area, the public may watch the baking action at the stone oven, or forno, located in the Kalukalu Pasture, just below the Society’s headquarters and historic general store museum in Kealakekua. They will discover the importance and operation of stone ovens like this one in our community and throughout Hawaii. They’ll learn how rustic breads made by the Portuguese community were sold, bartered, shared or well-loved among other ethnic groups. Such exchanges helped make sweet bread an iconic Hawaii specialty food item.

    The in-person observance of the weekly baking at the Society’s stone oven is limited to a total of 10 people, which includes staff members. If capacity is reached, the people looking to enter the pasture will have to wait until a party of their size leaves. Everyone in the pasture is required to wear face masks or cloth coverings and maintain the minimum social distancing requirement of 6 feet apart. To help keep everyone who enters the pasture safe, barriers will be set up, an observation area established, signage outlining the safety protocols visible, and chalk paint applied to the grass. No seating will be provided. The picnic tables in the pasture will be completely off limits. The restrooms at the Society’s main office will be closed to the public.

    Following the end of each bake, Kona Historical Society will sell approximately 80 loaves of sweet and white bread under the tent fronting the white building near the Society’s headquarters and belonging to its neighbors, Greenwell Farms. This is a drive-thru market, meaning customers must stay in their vehicles, drive to the tent following the directional signs, and wear a mask when purchasing bread. Each loaf of bread cost $8. All sales via cash or credit card are on a first-come, first-serve basis. No preorders and no reservations of bread will be accepted. Between sales, the Society’s iPad will be sanitized. Bread sales begin around 2 p.m. and last until 5 p.m. or everything is sold out. Leftover bread will be donated the following day to organizations in Kona that are currently helping feed the hungry. If your organization would like to receive leftover bread loaves from weekly bakes, please email Kona Historical Society at khs@konahistorical.org.

    With each bag of bread, customers will receive a new item: a flyer featuring a historic story from a community member. These flyers are more than just an acknowledgment or sharing of a collection of people, each with their own unique experiences and recollections. It’s a way to celebrate and enrich the public’s understanding of our island’s diverse communities by hearing from the people who live in them. The Society believes such stories can enrich one’s awareness of how the past informs its present and future. These stories can also spark empathy, curiosity and engagement about surrounding people, places and things. For example, Kona paniolo Frank Silva shares how his father would make more money selling his mother’s homemade Portuguese bread than pounding rocks in the 1940s.

    Kona Historical Society’s temporary closure of its historic sites, programs and events went into effect mid-March. As Hawaii has worked toward reopening certain businesses and places with modifications, Kona Historical Society has spent the past few months developing its plans for reopening, training its team, and creating precautions, which the Society will not take lightly due to COVID-19’s still lingering threat. The Society has been adhering to national, state and local guidelines, including following all recommendations to ensure the upgraded safety for employees and guests. This planning has caused the Society’s Leadership Team to further examine each of its programs, sites and experiences to determine how potential modifications or upgrades could be made. A safety team has also been established. Most of the Society’s team is working remotely from the safety of their homes or coming into work at staggered times. Currently, the Society’s main offices at the Kalukalu Headquarters, H.N. Greenwell Store Museum, Jean Greenwell Library & Archive, Native Forest Exhibit, and Kona Coffee Living History Farm remain closed to the public.

    The public should be on the lookout for the reopening of other programs, likely happening later in this Summer or Fall, but know it could still be awhile before the Society hosts its diverse array of in-person special events and programs, including the Hanohano ‘O Kona Lecture Series and jeep trips. Fortunately, Kona Historical Society’s two award-winning historic sites in Kealakekua and Captain Cook feature bountiful open space and outdoor areas to learn, discover, move around, relax, connect and be inspired. 

    As the situation surrounding this health crisis continues to evolve, the Society is poised to have an agile and innovative response to what opportunities will be going forward. As a 40-year-old community-based, nonprofit organization and Smithsonian Museum affiliate, the Society is determined to keep collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the Kona districts and their rich cultural heritage within Hawaii. During this pandemic, several new digital resources have been created for the public to enjoy. This includes: virtual field trips that are free for all Hawaii schools, a virtual story time with the Society’s two Kona Nightingales, a virtual talk story revealing Kona’s unique history featuring local historian Maile Melrose, a blog sharing stories from our community and organization, and a special online project, #KonaRemembersCOVID19, which is still gathering stories and photos from residents about their experiences during this challenging time.

    For more information, visit www.konahistorical.org. To view the latest happenings or to participate in a digital program, go to www.facebook.com/konahistoricalsociety.
    If you would like more information about this topic, photos, or to schedule an interview, please email Executive Director Dance Aoki (dance@konahistorical.org) or Community Engagement Manager Carolyn Lucas-Zenk (carolyn@konahistorical.org). For general information about our organization, visit www.konahistorical.org
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