From parades to hula, Hawaii Island residents can gather to celebrate Kamehameha I this week.
On Wednesday, the grassroots Kohala events begin with a lei draping at 7 a.m. at the Kamehameha Statue, organizer Cicely Hoopai said. That event includes hula and 25-foot-long flower lei that are placed on the statue of the king, which has stood in Kapaau since 1912.
The parade, which features community members, cultural representations and businesses, but not politicians or other officials, kicks off at 9 a.m.
At 10 a.m., after the parade, attendees are invited to a hoolaulea at Kamehameha Park. There, they’ll find food, entertainment and educational booths. Performers include David Gomes, John Keawe, hula halau Na Kupuna O Kohala and Halau O Kukui O Kohala.
“I do it for my culture and my heritage,” Hoopai said, explaining that her family has long been a part of planning the celebration for the uniter of the Hawaiian Islands. “I enjoy seeing the crowd along the roadway for the parade.”
Akoni Pule Highway directly in front of the statue will be closed from 5 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The highway, from Hoea Road to Kohala Hospital Road in Kapaau, will be closed from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Events continue Saturday in Kailua-Kona, with a 9 a.m. parade, followed by a hoolaulea when the parade concludes. Parade Chairwoman Barbara Nobriga said this year’s entertainment at the hoolaulea, held at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, near the royal center where the king spent his last years, is mostly from Hawaii Island.
Headlining this year is Hawane Rios, who was raised in Waimea and graduated from Kamehameha Schools on Oahu and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Her first single, “Poliahu i ke Kapu,” earned her a Big Island Music Award in the Hawaiian Language category. Since then, Rios has released three more singles and continues to compose and perform her music throughout Hawaii, according to the parade website, konaparade.org. Other performers include Alii Keanaaina; Nathan Grace and his band, Kekahi o Keola o Na Alii; and Tahitian dance troupe, Te Ea o Te Turama.
Performances begin at 11:45 a.m. Attendees can also see poi-pounding demonstrations, Hawaiian carvers, historic photo displays, awards presentations and special guests, including radio personality Skylark Rossetti.
East Hawaii has its own celebration, the Kamehameha Festival on Moku Ola, Coconut Island, starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, and running through 5 p.m.
Event Coordinator Pua Ishibashi said organizers decided to focus on hula halau for this year’s festival. They are featuring at least five halau from different parts of the island.
“We find that people enjoy the halau, because you have singing, movement and dance,” Ishibashi said. “People seem to enjoy that most. A lot of the time, dancers will interact with the audience.”
This year’s festival also includes a seashell blowing contest.
“It’s very popular on the mainland,” Ishibashi said.
The contest will split participants into divisions ranging from keiki to kupuna, he added.
Food is available, and art and craft vendors will be selling wares.
All three festivals are free and open to the public.