Back in its place, Wiaomina’s centenary boot gets a makeover

By on August 7, 2022 0

Waimea’s iconic Waiomina Centennial boot looks great again after a nearly month-long restoration and redesign that captures even more of the region’s paniolo heritage.

The colorful cowboy boot was put back on its pedestal along the Mamalahoa Highway outside the Waimea Center Thursday afternoon with about two dozen people turning up to see the new version of the old boot.

Standing over 8 feet tall, the Paniolo Preservation Society installed the truss in late 2008 following the statewide Great Waiomina Centennial Celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the paniolo the Hawaii’s most famous, Ikua Purdy, winning the steer roping contest at Cheyenne Frontier Days. Rodeo in 1908.

The fiberglass boot was one of 80 that were created by the Cheyenne Depot Museum Foundation and installed around Cheyenne for the 2008 festivities in Wyoming.

Pat Bergin, president of the nonprofit Paniolo Preservation Society, was part of the delegation that traveled from Hawaii to Cheyenne that year to celebrate the centennial. While there, she found the city’s art installations intriguing and felt that one would be perfect for Waimea, Purdy’s home and where paniolo heritage still thrives.

“When we were there, I noticed all these boots in different places in town, and I noticed that they were all (decorated) different, so I asked them, ‘how do you do that’ , and they said they had one. there was an empty one left, and I said to Billy, ‘Let’s get one back if we can,’ and so that’s what we did,” remembers Bergin.

The original boot was designed and painted by a renowned Colorado artist and featured imagery and designs focused on Hawaiian herding traditions, including the “palaka” pattern on the toe of the boot.

“She hired Ross Lampshire (to do the art) and he put a bronc rider on one side and a bull rider on the other,” recalls Pat’s husband, Dr Billy Bergin, who was doing also a founding member of the Paniolo Preservation Society. in 1998. “But they were almost whimsical illustrations whereas what he did is true to the story.”

The work Billy Bergin is referring to was done by famed Hawaiian artist Patrick Ching, whom the couple and company commissioned to lead the restoration with help from Harry Wishard, Tommy Mehau and other local artists.

“We trusted Patrick because he’s a rodeo competitor himself, he’s a bull rider and we also think he does a great job,” said Pat Bergin. “we have one of his paintings here in our house, we have always admired his work.”

Ching is a nature artist originally from Oahu, although his mother is from Holualoa and his daughter, Kawena, grew up in Waimea and recently graduated from the Parker School. His recent murals can be seen at the Hawi Post Office, the Kohala Hospital ER waiting room, and an Alala in Hilo. He also hosts “Painting in Paradise” on Spectrum OC16.

Although much of his work focuses on birds and other wildlife, Ching is also known for his intricate paintings of horses and bulls and is also a former bull rider.

“It’s a celebration of Hawaiian cowboys — the paniolo — especially the rodeo aspect of it,” Ching said of his work on the boot. “I just want them to feel good looking at a picture and learning about the history of cowboys in Hawaii. A lot of people don’t know we have rodeos or cattle or horses or whatever. be here.

With the help of the Bergins, Ching sifted through dozens of photographs to find the two images that now adorn the memorial boot.

“I went through many, many photographs,” Ching said, “and they (the Bergins) had a photo that looked really nice of their son, Holi, just lassoed, getting off his horse. It’s just a moment that captures a lot of different action happening at the same time and it was a really strong design for the art on the boot with the angles of the animal, the colors and the action.

Holi, who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 25, adorns the Waimea Center side of the boot. On the side facing Maunakea is a depiction of a Christy Lassiter photo of champion bull rider Dusty Miranda riding a bull named Arthur. Both images were originally captured at Parker Ranch Arena.

Additionally, Ching was sure to include local herding marks on the upper of the boot and the “palaka” cloth pattern so commonly worn by paniolo.

“One of the most challenging parts of the design was the fabric on the toe and heel of the boot. It’s called ‘palaka’ and it’s kind of a traditional Hawaiian plaid pattern,” he said. he stated “It was one of the hardest things to paint because it had a lot of lines and measurements, and it’s not just squares, it’s alternating widths and stuff.”

At the beginning of July, the physical works started with the removal of the iconic boot from the mall. After 14 years in the rain and wind of Waimea, the boot needed an overhaul.

“I believe that if you put something in a community, you have to maintain it and make sure it’s in top condition. And I felt the original was tired and needed a bit of work and so the easiest thing to do was take it apart and start all over,” said Pat Bergin.

Once the boot was safely back in a barn on the Bergins’ property, bodybuilder and painter David Benevides removed the chipped clearcoat and old paint and prepared the fiberglass boot for its new look.

After that, Ching was the “artist-in-residence” at the Bergin House in Waimea for 25 consecutive days. Every morning he rose early, spending the day hiding in Bergin’s barn working his acrylics into a masterpiece.

“He worked 12 hours a day, and I mean every day – Saturday and Sunday,” recalls Pat Bergin.

She hopes the redesign of the Centennial Boot will inspire the community to embrace Waimea’s paniolo heritage.

“We need to educate our community on what it is – what the paniolo lifestyle is. I think by putting art in public places, that’s where young people will appreciate the culture of this community forever,” she said, adding “that’s the exact reason we founded the Paniolo Preservation Society – it’s to educate people and allow them to come and see part of history and we hope it will perpetuate the paniolo culture for a long time.”

The Paniolo Preservation Society plans to hold its Heritage Dinner and Auction this year after a two-year COVID-induced hiatus. The festivities are scheduled for Oct. 29, and while it’s called a “masked ball,” Pat Bergin said the in-person event “will be an opportunity to deck yourself out in your Western finery.”

For more information about the Paniolo Preservation Society, visit, or visit the Heritage Center and Store at Pukalani Stables in Waimea.