Aloha Festivals

Courtesy Aloha Festivals

Sharing Hawaii's cultural traditions

While rummaging through her late dad’s personal belongings, Debbie Nakanelua-Richards came across an Aloha Week pin that dated back to 1947, only the second year after this Hawaiian celebration was founded. It was a feel-good moment for the former Miss Hawai‘i and a reminder of the importance of this cultural event.

“When I see people from all over the world standing shoulder to shoulder on Kalakaua Avenue, I get chicken skin,” says Nakanelua-Richards, co-chairwoman of Aloha Festivals, which was renamed from Aloha Week in 1991. “This is what Aloha Festivals is all about — bringing locals and visitors together.”

More than just “hello” or “goodbye,” aloha is a way of living and being.  And each year, Aloha Festivals shares this through Hawai’i’s music, dance and history with the intent of perpetuating our unique traditions. In addition to old customs, the Aloha Festivals also chooses a theme to spotlight a vital component in modern Hawaiian culture. This year’s theme, “He Lei Aloha Ke Keiki — Children Are Our Garland of Love."

“Each year I am thrilled to see and experience the delight of the many keiki that participate in the Aloha Festivals,” said Aloha Festivals board of directors’ co-chair Helene “Sam” Shenkus in a released statement. “We are hopeful that this year’s theme will encourage more families and children to take time from their busy schedules to learn about Hawaiʻi’s rich history, traditions and cultures.”

Aloha Festivals kicks off September 9 at the Royal Grove at the Royal Hawaiian Center with the investiture and opening of the Aloha Festivals Royal Court, as the ali‘i court members (king, queen, prince and princess) will receive the royal cloak, helmet and head feather lei. On September 16, kids can participate in their own Keiki Ho‘olaule‘a, a daylong event filled with activities and demonstrations and children musical groups and performances at Pearlridge Center. On Sept. 23, the Waikīkī Ho‘olaule‘a hits the streets for the island’s largest block party of the year. On Sept. 30, the festival closes out with its beautiful Floral Parade as a procession of pa‘u riders, hula halau, marching bands and colorful floats filled with Hawaiian flowers make their way from Ala Moana Beach Park to Kapiolani Park.

The reason for the thousands of visitors and locals in attendance each year is evident, according to Shenkus. “The world is full of beautiful beaches and beautiful hotels and world class environments. There are many other places you could go in the world,” she says. “But there is only one with aloha spirit.”

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