Jake Shimabukuro & best friend save Kaimuki Christmas tree

Jake Shimabukuro & best friend save Kaimuki Christmas tree 6pm
Published: Dec. 23, 2013 at 9:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just in time for Christmas, a community has come together to preserve a beloved Holiday tradition -- the floating Kaimuki Christmas tree, which has shined brightly from the top of Pu'u o Kaimuki Mini Park for 28 years.

Since 1984, various non-profits or business groups have volunteered to maintain the lights and pay the electric bill for the floating Christmas tree off Koko Head Avenue. For the first time this year, no one came forward and it looked like the Christmas tradition would end, until two friends -- with help from family, Facebook and a lot of faith -- came together to make it happen.

"The Kaimuki Christmas tree is a huge tradition.  It's just a fixture. A lot of people are used to seeing it on the drive home and to not see it lit up is was kind of heartbreaking," described Jeff Lau.

Lau learned the Christmas tree wasn't going to be lit this year after Hawaii News Now reported on it last week.  He says he called his best friend and fellow Kaimuki High School grad, Jake Shimabukuro.

"What do you mean they're not lighting it up this year?," the Na Hoku Hanohano award winner recalled saying over the phone.  "And he said yeah, that's what they just said on the news and so he told me, 'Man, we should do something about it.'  So I said, 'Alright, let's see what we can do.'"

Jake posted a call to action on his Facebook page Friday.  Saturday, he and Jeff went to check the situation out in person.

"People were throwing shoes up into the tree. There were some light bulbs that were broken and electric wiring had been cut," explained Lau.

The pair learned they would need a couple electricians and a ladder truck in order to make the necessary repairs -- not a likely feat the weekend before Christmas. But as it turns out, Jake's cousin, Todd Mayeshiro, is an electrician who helped volunteer with the tree in the past.  Together with a friend, Todd spent Sunday fixing what he could with limited resources.

"The timeframe was so small and, I mean, it didn't seem like we were going to be able to do it at some points,but we pulled together.  We did what we had to and we changed as many lightbulbs as we could and hopefully all goes well," Mayeshiro said.

Monday at 6 p.m., they plan to flip the switch and keep a Holiday tradition of nearly three decades going strong just in time for Christmas.

"I don't think we appreciated all the effort that went into it in previous years, but now that we're aware of what needs to be done -- how many people need to make this work -- I think we'll be on top of things and make sure that it won't go dark again," Lau said.

"It really is truly, if you think about it, is the meaning of Christmas.  It's a miracle, yeah? The things that you think can't get done or won't get done and just pulling together and doing it," Mayeshiro said.

"It's that special time of year and it's bringing the community together and it just makes people feel good.  I've been a Kaimuki resident my whole life and that tree means a lot," Shimabukuro said.

The tree lighting ceremony is open to the public and Shimabukuro will be performing at 5:30 p.m.

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