Lei draping ceremonies, parades and other festivities June 7-9 honored the legacy of King Kamehameha, who in 1795 was responsible for unifying the Hawaiian Islands. Celebrations took place throughout the weekend on all of the Hawaiian Islands with the largest on Oahu in downtown Honolulu.
Festivities began on Friday, June 7, with the Lei Draping Ceremony at the Statue of King Kamehameha in front the historic Ali`iolani Hale building. The next morning there was a parade through downtown Waikiki . Thousands of spectators lined the streets to honor Hawaii’s greatest hero, warrior and statesman, King Kamehameha. There were brightly decorated floats, energetic marching bands and traditional pa'u riders, representing the Hawaiian royal court on horseback. Later in the afternoon the members of the Celebration Commission hosted a day of music, traditional artists and exhibitors on the grounds of Iolani Palace.
Commission member Skylark Rossetti said, “Kamehameha had the vision to see what he wanted for his people and that was to be one people under one King, so we honor this visionary, not just so statues can be decked with leis but as symbolism that in our hearts we as Hawaiians can be one together."
The celebration also brought many traditional Native Hawaiians together who see Kamehameha Day as a reminder to the world that Hawaii is their traditional home and resting place of their Kupuna (ancestors). Bray Kapiko who sat enjoying the day’s festivities had a long pole attached to his lawn chair flying two upside down Hawaiian flags. “These flags are a clear sign Hawaii is in distress, our lands were stolen from us and today is a reminder for all Hawaiians to never forget and to honor the royalty we once had” said Bray.
The parade and all the pageantry is not for everyone I met. Robert Haumea of Aiea said, “I only attend the Lei Draping Ceremony because for me that is the true honoring of this great leader."
It’s clear the 96th Annual King Kamehameha Celebration had different meanings for visitors but one thing is clear the legacy of Hawaii’s greatest leader will never be forgotten.