Our Islands, Our Future

Following his late grandpa’s footsteps, Otto “Uncle Joe” Thompson will serve as the 2012 Makawao Rodeo Grand Marshal. “I’m not nervous. Nothing can faze me at this stage,” the 75-year-old said. “I’m just going to have fun.” As an Upcountry youngster, Thompson remembers the Fourth of July Makawao Parade when the late Charley Thompson served as the rodeo grand marshal. “He was smiling and everybody was happy. We were all happy.”

The 57th annual Makawao Rodeo kicks up from July 5-8, highlighting Maui and the state’s finest paniolo for a weekend of bull riding, steer chasing, roping and other events for both adults and youngsters. “The Makawao Rodeo is a time to meet up with all your friends,” Thompson said. The rodeo itself takes place at the Oskie Rice Arena on Olinda Road in Makawao, while the annual Makawao Parade begins at 9 a.m. on July 7 from Baldwin Avenue to Eddie Tam Memorial Center on Makawao Avenue. For more information, call 283-2741. Thompson said even those who don’t find rodeo entertaining can find enjoyment. “No sense stay home. This is for everybody. If anything, you can come and eat hot dogs and hamburgers and just have fun.”

This year’s rodeo grand marshal currently resides parttime on the Big Island, retiring after 37 years of service as a semi-trailer driver for Maui Land & Pineapple Company. He is a father of three children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Uncle Joe was born in Paia and raised in Kokomo around horses. He could be found either at the Kahului fair grounds exercising race horses, at the polo field grooming the polo ponies or at the Thompson Ranch taking out trail rides. His hobbies today are raising parakeets and chasing Palominos. He says he’s been to almost every one of the Makawao 4th of July parades. “I like it,” he said. “They’re a lot of fun.”