Six Ways Hawaii Honors King Kamehameha the Great
Hawaii Celebrates King Kamehameha Day with parades, lei drapings & hula festivals
Each year on June 11th, Hawaii honors its monarchy past with annual King Kamehameha Day celebrations. The official Hawaii State Holiday celebrates King Kamehameha the Great, the mighty warrior who united and established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810.
One of the first holidays proclaimed with Hawaii Statehood in 1959, King Kamehameha Day was originally initiated on June 11, 1872 by King Kamehameha V to honor his grandfather’s birth. The kingdom-wide holiday was observed with fairs, carnivals, and horse races. Throughout the islands, this special occasion still lauds the mighty ruler with beautiful Hawaiian traditions that including lei drapings, parades, festivals, and hula competitions.
But you’ll find other ways that King Kamehameha I is honored that go beyond the Hawaii State Holiday festivities.
Here are six ways Hawaii honors King Kamehameha the Great.
1) King Kamehameha Day Parades
Count on floral parades across the Hawaiian Islands, with Oahu’s being the grandest.
Oahu - June 9th
102nd Annual King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade
Displaying traditional Hawaiian pageantry via floats and pa`u horse-riding units, the King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade begins at 9am at Iolani Palace in Downtown Honolulu and ends at Waikiki’s Kapiolani Park. Afterward, the festivities continue with a Ho`olaule`a (block party) featuring food, music, arts, crafts, games, and sports.
Island of Hawaii - June 9th
Kailua-Kona, King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade
On the Island of Hawaii, floral processions are held in Hilo, between the North Kohala towns of Hawi and Kapaau (King Kamehameha’s birthplace), and along Kailua-Kona’s Alii Drive.
June 9th, Kailua-Kona’s King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade and Ho`olaule`a Honoring Hawaii’s greatest alii (royalty), the King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade and Ho`olaule`a in Historic Kailua Village (KonaParade.org) engages with regal pa`u riders, horse-drawn carriages, hula halau (groups), and marching bands. The floral Parade runs along Kuakini Highway, Palani Road, Alii Drive past Kamakahonu Bay by Kailua Pier and historic Kailua Village to Walua Road.
Afterward, enjoy a Ho`olaule`a at Hulihe`e Palace on Alii Drive with a concert featuring Hawaiian music recording artists.
Kauai - June 9th
King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade
Beginning at 9am at Lihue’s Vidinha Stadium and proceeding to the Historic County Building on Rice Street, Kauai’s King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade wows with the Hawaiian pa`u riding, and post-parade Ho`olaule`a with hula, live Hawaiian entertainment, food booths, and craft vendors.
Maui - June 9th
Na Kamehameha Commemorative Pa`u Parade and Ho`olaule`a
Maui nods to the King with the Na Kamehameha Commemorative Pa`u Parade that brims with local marching bands and colorful floats. Beginning at 9am, the procession travels along Lahaina’s historic Front Street and ends at Banyan Tree Park with a Ho`olaule`a, naturally!
2) Lei Draping of Kamehameha the Great Statues
The most celebrated Hawaiian monarch of all, King Kamehameha has been honored with six statues across the globe commemorating his unification feat.
Photo Credit: Daniel Ramirez
Completed in 1883, the original statue en route to Hawaii from Paris was temporarily lost at sea when the ship transporting it sank off the Falkland Islands. As a second statue was being recast, the original was salvaged. Both statues eventually arrived to the islands, with the first now standing on Hawaii Island in the King’s North Kohala birthplace, and the second in Downtown Honolulu.
A third statue that was commissioned when Hawaii became a state stands today in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Visitor Center Emancipation Hall. This is the heaviest likeness of the King, weighing in at 15,000 pounds.
Three additional castings can be found in Hilo on Hawaii Island, at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort, and at the Las Vegas Hawaiian Marketplace in what is commonly referred to by locals as Hawaii's 9th Island!
Oahu - June 9th
146th Annual King Kamehameha Lei Draping
It’s no wonder that the King Kamehameha Statue Lei Draping at Aliiolani Hale in Downtown Honolulu is among the most photographed events in Hawaii. Standing 15 feet high on a pedestal of equal height, the regal statue is draped by hundreds of feet of plumeria flower lei that each measures in at 30-plus feet long. Hawaiian protocol dictates that the lei must be draped only over the King’s outstretched arm.
From 3pm, the traditional lei draping ceremony also features a royal court performance, Hawaiian music and entertainment.
Photo Credit: Kirk Lee Aeder via HIVB
Big Island of Hawaii - June 9th
Hilo hosts a lei draping ceremony at the Bayfront Drive King Kamehameha statue, as well as, a Ho`olaule`a at Mokuola (Coconut Island). King Kamehameha the Great’s North Kohala birthplace follows the same routine, with Kailua-Kona featuring a parade along Alii Drive followed by a Ho`olaule`a and free concert at Hulihee Palace.
Oahu - June 9th
45th Annual King Kamehameha Hula Competition
Held at Honolulu’s Neil S. Blaisdell Center, The Annual King Kamehameha Hula Competition showcases competitive performances by hula halau from across the State of Hawaii and Japan.
Big Island of Hawaii - June 11th
Hilo Kamehameha Festival
Held on Coconut Island from 10am-4pm, the Hilo Kamehameha Festival is set to celebrate a theme of being steadfast, established, firm, resolute, and determined. Enjoy Hawaiian music and traditional dance by selected hula halau.
4) Kamehameha Schools
Photo Credit: Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus via Facebook
Originally established in 1887 as an all-boys school for native Hawaiian children in Honolulu’s Kapalama area, Kamehameha Schools today has additional campuses on the Island of Hawaii and Maui. The private charitable educational trust was endowed by the will of Hawaiian Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831-1884), the great granddaughter and last direct descendant of King Kamehameha I.
5) Pali Lookout
Photo Credit: Milan van Weelden
Pali Lookout is the location of the May 1795 Battle of Nuuanu, where King Kamehameha I won the fierce conflict that finally united the island of Oahu under his rule. Hundreds of soldiers lost their lives, with many forced off the Pali’s sheer cliffs. After this climax of the mighty Hawaiian warrior’s campaign, his kingdom was for the first time referred to as the “Kingdom of Hawaii.”
6) Ahu`ena Heiau
Photo Credit: Kirk Lee Aeder via IHVB
The Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel on Alii Drives rests on one of the most historic sites in all of Hawaii. King Kamehameha the Great established his royal residence adjacent to the current site of his namesake hotel, with his residential domain including all of Kamakahonu Bay, fishponds and gardens.
During King Kamehameha's reign, he rebuilt Ahu`ena Heiau (Ahuena-Heiau.org/index.html), a temple dedicated to Lono, the Hawaiian God of agriculture, peace and prosperity. Reconstructed between 1812 and 1813, Ahu`ena Heiau is listed on the register of National Historic Landmarks. Here, Kamehameha the Great ruled over all the islands until his passing on May 8, 1819.
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