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kamehamehaleiO’ahu has a calendar that’s full of festivals and celebrations, from the Honolulu Festival in spring to the Aloha Festivals in fall. Kamehameha Day on June 11 is one of the most colorful and elaborate of the island’s celebrations, and it offers the opportunity to delve into the history and culture of the Hawaiian islands.

King Kamehameha I (full name: Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kauʻi Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea) is honored for having established the first Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810. Kamehameha Day was established by his grandson in 1871 and, in 1883,  a statue of Kamehameha I, which plays a central role in festivities, was dedicated in Honolulu by King David Kalākaua.

Lei Draping Ceremony

hulalei2The King Kamehameha statue is situated opposite Iʻolani Palace and, on June 11 each year, individuals and groups create 25-foot-long leis to drape over the statue. By turns reflective, solemn, and celebratory, this lei draping ceremony is filled with color, dance, and live music from the Royal Hawaiian Band. Descendents of the king, dressed in ceremonial robes, suits, and feather cloaks speak of his legend and dancers perform hula and war dances as leis are placed across the king’s outstretched arm. The ceremony is free to watch, but you should get there early for the best view.


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Floral Parade

floralparadeThe floral parade through Waikiki, Hawaii’s longest parade, features flower-studded floats, high school marching bands, colorfully dressed female pa’u horseback riders, hula dancers, musicians, and marching units including the Royal Hawaiian Band. The parade starts at Iolani Palace and end at Kapiolani Park, where, immediately afterward, the annual King Kamehameha Day Hoolaulea (celebration) takes place with live music, food, cultural demonstrations, and educational exhibits. This year’s floral parade begins at 9 a.m. on June 14.

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