Mark Twain described Hawaii as “The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.” However, more than that, it’s arguably the most culturally unique state in the nation. Hawaii is the only state that recognizes a statewide festival. Aloha Festivals are annual cultural celebrations that are observed throughout the different islands, and the Hawai’i Island Festival, 30 Days of Aloha was created to continue a monthlong celebration of the traditional Aloha Festival.
Through various events such as concerts, parades, and street parties called ho’olaule’a, the festival perpetuates the cultural traditions and aloha spirit of Hawaii Island by featuring the uniqueness of Hawai’i’s rich heritage.
Every year, the committee selects a theme, which reflects an aspect of Hawaii’s culture and traditions. This year the committee honors the knowledge and traditions of the past with the theme “I ka wa ma mua, I ka wa ma hope” — The future is in the past. The committee encourages participants to reflect upon the teachings of their kupuna to guide them toward the future.
One of the main annual events is the Paniolo Parade and this year marks its 39th anniversary. Parade Chairwoman Moani Akana is proud of the community who comes together to make it a reality.
“It’s a small community parade and we receive approval from the kupuna, which means a lot to us,” said Akana. “It’s not one of these big, fancy Rose Bowl parades. It’s a small community parade that takes a lot of work from our parade participants. Just to get a float and decorate it is a lot of work. Our kids are learning from doing and following their parents and grandparents. This instills pride because they work hard at it. When they see their families beaming with pride it makes it all worthwhile.”
This year the parade features a female entertainer of the year, Hulu Lindsey from Waimea.
“We are lucky that she is going to be in our parade and is going to be on our stage at the Ho’olaue’a following the parade,” said Akana.
Another favorite event this year will be the Ms. Aloha Nui Pageant at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott on Friday, Aug. 22.
“It is an unusual pageant, in that it honors women of larger stature who embody the spirit of aloha,” said pageant chair, Leiola Mitchell. “For example, Princess Ruth Keelikolani. She was a very large statured woman, however she had a lot of power and she was very loved by the people. Native cultures and ethnicities around the globe hold their large women in high regard. Hawaii is no different.”
One of the qualifications for entry into the pageant is that a contestant must way at least 200 pounds.
“It’s not your typical pageant,” said Mitchell. “The girls meet and they become friends. They really help each other out during the whole process. It’s not the typical pull your hair, and poke your eyes out pageant. It’s very loving and friendship-bonding. Regardless of who wins or who doesn’t, they have this great bond with each other. People can come out for an evening of fun-filled talent and the beauty of the women who embody the spirit of aloha.”
This year there will be a Kindy Sproat Falsetto Concert instead of a competition. Former winners will perform to honor the late chairperson, Pua’ala Garmon who passed away this past year.
This year’s Mo’I, or king, is George Roldan and his Mo’i Wahine, or queen, is his wife, Diane Chadwick.
“We are really trying to keep alive the sense of respect for our ali’i,” Mitchell said.
Hawaii Island Festival is fortunate to receive support from local businesses, KTA, ACE, Rotary Club of North Hawaii, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Hawaii Tourism Authority, volunteers, entertainers, and many more. This year’s committee members include, Lorna Akima, Doreen Kama, Gwen Ahana, Linda Pokipala, Leiola Mitchell, Daviann Kama, Malia Ahana-Pascual and Fern Kealoha.
For more information on events and activities, visit www.hawaiiislandfestival.org.