Every year on June 11th, Hawai’i celebrates their most famous king, Kamehameha I. Ceremonies, parades and general festivities rich in flowers, colors and Aloha are held on each island. On O’ahu, a glorious floral parade is held each year on the Saturday closest to June 11th, and, if June 11th happens to be on a Saturday, then so it is.
This year, the 98th Annual Floral Parade and Hoolaulea will be held tomorrow, Saturday June 14th starting at 9:00 am. It will be televised live on Oceanic Cable Channel 12 and HD Channel 1012, as well as streamed live on www.oc16.tv.
The images I am sharing are those from last year’s event, which I photographed before and during the parade at Iolani Palace – the only Royal Palace within the United States, once official residence of the Hawaiian monarchs King Kalālakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani.
Starting around 7:30 am the paraders gather on the grounds of Iolani Palace and in the adjacent streets. By 9:00 am everyone is ready and the parade begins, moving down King Street to Punchbowl Street, down Ala Moana Boulevard to Waikiki along Kalakaua Avenue, ending at Kapiolani Park.
I am not much of a parade person, but last year my dear friend Gloria was finally riding as Pa’u Queen, so I grabbed my gear and headed out early. I say finally because it takes years of parade riding as Princess or Attendant to then reach Queen status. Once you ride as Queen, your role is relinquished the following year to the next in line. A short lived reign, but a coveted and prestigious one.
There she is in the image above, as she and her court arrive at the Palace where they will wait the start of the parade.
A lot of work goes into the floral parade, and the participants prepare for it all year long. They have to practice riding several times a month to familiarize with the horse and with being on a saddle for several hours. Then there are the costumes, which are sown by those in the group who have sewing skills and own a sewing machine. The flower lei on the horses and the hair pieces are also prepared and arranged by each rider, who is also responsible for gathering the flowers, often having to fly to a neighboring island for the day in order to acquire specific ones.
The lei are assembled in the days just before the parade and kept refrigerated. The headdresses, along with make up and hair happen the night before the parade, when the riders gather around dinner time and work all night long to complete preparations. Often, hair-and-make-up-stylist friends help out, themselves staying up till 2-3 in the morning to finish. By the time the riders reach the gathering grounds of the Palace, they haven’t slept in 36 hours.
Riders and horses gather at a nearby school around 7:00 am. Due to the elaborate costumes, once mounted, there is no dismounting until they reach Kapiolani Park hours later, where everyone gets water and refreshments and the horses are loaded onto vans and driven back to the stables for some well deserved grooming and rest.
Occasionally, a couple of the horses are on their own agenda, adding to the (ehm) entertainment by becoming troublesome to handle for the relatively inexperienced riders, which is why experienced horse masters ride along with each group. The other little thing that needs attending to in such a parade is of biological nature. That is taken care of by young assistants who follow the riders appropriately equipped to pick up after the horses.
One more note needs to be added to this behind-the-scenes account: I do not know about the others, but the floral parade riders receive no financial support from the State or the local Tourist Office. They pay for their own riding lessons, fabric for the costumes, flowers at all, giving of their own time and effort with the prestige of dispensing Aloha in the parade their only compensation.
As you may have figured by now, the Pa’u Riders are the most popular feature in the parade. They represent a Royal court led by the Pa’u Queen and her Attendants, and followed by Princesses representing the eight major Hawaiian Islands: Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Kaho’olawe, Lana’i, Maui and Hawai’i (or Big Island). Each Pricess also has her Attendants and Riders.
Each island is defined by a specific color: red for the island of Hawai’i, pink for the island of Maui, orange for the island of Lana’i, blue for the island of Kaho’olawe, green for the island of Moloka’i, yellow for the island of O’ahu, purple for the island of Kaua’i, and brown for the island of Ni’ihau.
I mentioned the troublesome horses earlier because that is what happened to my friend Gloria (Pa’u Queen) on that day. A week before the parade, she had had to change to a different horse than the one she had been practicing on all year, and on the day something was obviously bothering the mare because she kept fidgeting and moving about. I found out later that Gloria went through the whole parade slaloming left and right in wide curves as she tried to control her horse.
After a long wait, the parade is finally read to roll. There are lots more Queens and Princesses riding in it, as well as representatives of various organizations, groups and schools. Some ride in vehicles, some walk, some even dance the whole way. Everyone is crowned, or covered in lei and flowers. I have not photographed everyone as my main focus were the Pa’u Riders, but I did manage to get some.
As much as I was hoping for a bit of overcast, it was a glorious hot and sunny day in Paradise. Once the Pa’u riders had all left the grounds on their slow crawl to Kapiolani Park, I had a gazillion photos in my memory card and had long since run out of water. I headed for the Aloha Pops tricycle where Kathy watched me gobble up four of her divine pops in my favorite flavors: lychee, mango, lilikoi and haupia (coconut pudding). Once refreshed I headed back to my car and home for a nap with the pups.
The King Kamehameha Day celebrations begin on the Friday before the parade (which is always on a Saturday for logistical reasons) with the annual vigil at the Statue by Mamakakaua, Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors. It is followed a few hours later by the Lei Draping Ceremony. The Lei are sewn by the ladies of ‘Ahahui Ka ‘ahumanu using plumeria flowers donated by the public.
On the Saturday of the Parade, there are also various cultural exhibitions an events set up in various locations, including the grounds of Iolani Palace, and across the street by the Aliiolani Hale, the Kawaihao Church and the Mission Houses and Museums. Food vendors are also present – of course – and picnics are encouraged.
The Ho’olaule’a (Celebration), a big block party with food and music, is held near Waikiki at Kapiolani Park, the final destination of the parade.
I hope I have captioned all the images correctly. I did not have a chance to ask everyone who they were while I was running around snapping pics, so if you see mistakes, please let me know and I will correct them.
Note: the 2017 Kamehameha Day parade will be on Saturday, June 10th, always starting at Iolani Palace at 9:00 am.
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