KAILUA-KONA — From pa’u riders atop decorated horses, to warriors with weapons, the 2019 King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade offered glimpses of the islands’ past on Saturday morning.
With so much visually rich culture on display, it could be hard to select a favorite.
“The volcano,” Syden Silva, 6, said of his choice for top parade honors.
Except a volcano there wasn’t, though 33 other entries did take part.
“The horses,” Lexi Isabel, 7, corrected, on her vote for best feature. “They’re cool.”
The annual tradition ushered down Alii Drive in honor of the king, who died 200 years ago to the day, May 8. Kamehameha I, also called Kamehameha the Great, was born in the Kohala region and was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii after he successfully united the islands. This year’s theme was Ka Mo‘i Kamehameha Nui, translated: “Kamehameha, the Sovereign Ruler of All.”
It was a parade befitting royalty, as it is every year.
Imi Peterson said she brings her family to the event annually because it’s an important tradition having grown up here. She notices the differences in lei between the years, as well as size of the procession, but it’s always been fun day the family enjoys together. Michelle Gomes, too, takes in the event with friend and family every year.
“It’s an island tradition,” she said.
Hundreds lined a sun-bathed Alii Drive from Palani Road to the Royal Kona Resort. The parade began with the Royal Court of Kamehameha, bare chested and fierce looking, and featured more than 100 riders on horseback, including the pa‘u riders in their colorful flowing skirts and floral arrangements representing the eight Hawaiian Islands.
Melanie Moses, who grew up in South Kona around horses, served as Pa’u Queen. Her grandfather, William Kuualoha Thompson, a former parade grand marshal himself, taught her and all the kids in the family how to ride, which Moses displayed — weaving her horse from side to side of the street as she blew kisses to the crowd.
Edwin Nobriga Sr. served as grand marshal. The retired Hawaii Police District Commander has worked behind the scenes of the parade for the past 50 years.
The celebration continued into the afternoon at the historic Hulihee Palace with hula, cultural practitioners, Hawaiian crafts and live music.
On Kamehameha Day, which is Tuesday and a state holiday, North Kohala honors the great king with its own celebration.
Festivities begin at 8 a.m. with the lei draping ceremony of the original statue of King Kamehameha I, hula, history and music in the heart of Kapaau.
Back in Kailua Village, parade-goers said it’s important to pay respect to Hawaii’s unique, rich history as a way to ensure it continues in the years that follow.
“We have to represent where we come from,” Megan Hoopai said.