Fit for a King

Noth Kohala Kamehameha Day

Listen to the blowing of the pu during the annual lei draping and blessing of the original state of King Kamehameha I in Kapaau. This tradition is part of the North Kohala Kamehameha Day Celebration. (West Hawaii Today File Art)

Big Island Celebrates Kamehameha.

A lei-draping ceremony, colorful parades and other jubilant festivities on the Big Island will honor a legendary figure in Hawaiian history and culture.

King Kamehameha the Great united the islands, founding the Kingdom of Hawaii.

His character and humanity are preserved in the Law of the Splintered Paddle, which is included in the state constitution and assures every man, woman and child would be able to travel freely and in peace, with the right “to lie down to sleep by the roadside without fear of harm.”

His strength is remembered and proven in moolelo, such as the account about the naha stone, which he overturned by brute force, thereby fulfilling the prophecy to “overthrow a mountain” at age 14. His leadership and mastery of diplomacy earned him the nickname “Napoleon of the Pacific.”

June 11, Kamehameha Day, is a state and county holiday.

Kick off the holiday by enjoying performances by top Hawaii recording artists and hula halau during the Kamehameha Festival happening from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Moku Ola (Coconut Island) in Hilo.

The festival also features numerous cultural practitioners, an oli (chant) exhibition, a pu (seashell) blowing contest for all ages, food, as well as Hawaii-made arts and craft vendors.

This no-charge event is drug-, alcohol- and smoke-free and is presented by the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Mamalahoa. Call 989-4844 or visit

In Kapaau, the original Kamehameha statue stands in front of a 1893 courthouse from sugar plantation days, above Akoni Pule Highway.

Placing 25-foot-long strands of flowers on the statue is a long-standing tradition.

The lei draping and blessing begins at 8 a.m. June 11, followed by hula, history and music.

It is part of the annual North Kohala Kamehameha Day Celebration, a large grassroots effort honoring the king, as well as celebrating the area’s history and heritage.

Kamehameha was born in North Kohala, where residents played a prominent role in saving his life as an infant.

The June 11 celebration also features a 9 a.m. traditional pa‘u parade with horses and riders adorned in flowers and colors representing the islands.

North Kohala Kamehameha Day.

Pa‘u rider Rain Gaspar represents the island of Kahoolawe during last year’s King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade in Kailua-Kona. (Marie Aguilar/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The riders travel from the Hawi county baseyard to the statue and back to Kamehameha Park in Kapaau.

A hoolaulea with performances by award-winning Hawaiian musicians and hula halau, as well as arts, crafts and food, will occur from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kamehameha Park.


More than 90 horses, as well as floats, marching bands, hula halau and the regal pa‘u riders, will be featured during this year’s King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade June 16 in Kailua-Kona. Gifted musician and paniolo Leabert Lindsey is the grand marshal, while accomplished horsewoman and fifth generation Big Island rancher DeeDee Bertelmann is the pa‘u queen.

The regal pa‘u equestrian units will highlight each island’s colors and flowers.

The Daughters of Hawaii will also sponsor a pa‘u unit, led by a horse-drawn carriage made of koa and ohia.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. near the Royal Kona Resort, travels on Alii Drive past Kamakahonu Bay by the pier, then up Palani Road to Kuakini Highway and ends around noon near West Hawaii Today.

A hoolaulea featuring Hawaiian arts, crafts and music, will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 16 at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

Live performances by Grammy award-winning artist Cyril Pahinui, Na Hoku Hanohano award-winner Darlene Ahuna and the Honokaa Jazz Band begin around noon. Awards will be presented to King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade participants. This free festival also offers a historic photo display. Call 322-9944 or visit

Another hoolaulea in celebration of King Kamehameha Day and all things Hawaiian will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 16 at Hale Halawai.

The festival offers food, crafts, cultural demonstrations, games and live entertainment.

It is produced by Kumu Kenneth Aloha Victor and his Halau Kalaakeakauikawekiu as a part of fundraising efforts to enter the Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition.

By Carolyn Lucas-Zenk – West Hawaii Today

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