KAILUA-KONA — For nearly 40 years now, the Daughters of Hawaii have opened the grounds and doors of Hulihee Palace to the public around this time of year to welcome kamaaina and visitors alike for a day to celebrate Hawaiian history, culture, music, hula and crafts.
“We’re about historic preservation,” said Kanoe Renaud, operations manager for the Daughters of Hawaii. “And along with that comes helping people understand the history and the culture of Hawaii.”
The annual Day at Hulihee Palace, held Saturday, brought together more than 40 vendors, cultural practitioners, entertainment and more to benefit operations and maintenance of Hulihee Palace and its grounds.
Renaud said the event is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, noting major restoration projects that are on the horizon.
“We want to make sure that this palace lasts for another 100 years,” she said.
This is the 37th year of the Daughters of Hawaii hosting the event, according to a news release about the event, which honors Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, whose March 26 birthday is a state holiday.
“By having Day at Hulihee,” Renaud said, “we’re inviting the public to come in, to experience the home of our alii and what life was like back then.”
The event, she said, offers something for everybody — both those who live here and those visiting.
For kamaaina, she said, it’s an opportunity to find pride in the local culture. And for visitors, it’s a learning opportunity for those who might never have known Hawaii’s history.
“And so it’s a chance for them to really take a step deeper in learning more about the culture and that it’s not just the flashy luaus of the tourist industry,” she said.
And visitors to the area, such as Florida residents James Preston and his wife, were taking in everything the event had to offer.
Preston said they stopped over in Kona on their way home from a two-month vacation and saw the festivities while staying at the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.
And a big appeal for them, he said, was the local crafts on display, saying they like being able to contribute to the local economy.
“A lot of it is really unique,” he said. “It’s not the mass-manufactured stuff you find in some of the shops.”
And for those who live in the area, the Day at Hulihee Palace was an opportunity to share the culture with others.
Barbara McDonough, who dances hula with the halau Hannah’s Makana Ohana, said she’s been dancing for six years and performing at this event for five. The halau has been performing at the event for about a decade.
“It means a lot to be invited to participate in something that’s so dear to the hearts of the Hawaiian people,” she said.
McDonough said events like this are important because visitors should learn about Hawaiian history and important cultural elements.
Kumu Hannah Uribes, a member of the Daughters of Hawaii, said the event is also an opportunity to support the organization’s fundraising and preservation efforts that keep the palace running.
Meanwhile, Lanakila Mangauil of Honokaa was demonstrating kapa, representing the Hawaiian Cultural Center of Hamakua.
Mangauil said this was the group’s second year coming to the event at Hulihee Palace.
“This is an opportunity for especially us kanaka maoli, native Hawaiians, for us to tell our story to a venue like this that is so full of our guests, very important that we tell our stories,” he said.
Mangauil said the focus is on education and showing there are opportunities for people to deepen their understanding of and connection with Hawaiian culture.
And for him personally, he said, it’s important to demonstrate these practices are still alive.
“We’re not a museum culture,” he said. “We’re not just done and it’s not only just ‘Oh, long time ago, they used to,’ we are still doing these things.”
Also featured was a variety of artists and vendors putting their own work and crafts on display. By including those artists and vendors in the event, Renaud said, “we’re also helping them to share their little piece of Hawaii’s culture with everyone.”
Mangauil too said the Day at Hulihee Palace is an opportunity to showcase local artists and vendors who continue to be inspired by Hawaii.
“Whether native artisans or non-native artisans, it’s still Hawaii that people are connecting with, this land and all,” he said. “So they all get to share their stories and the way that they show their connection with this place, whether the gathering of shells or driven by the floral or however.”