City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

King Kamehameha Day

A celebration throughout Hawai'i

Article by Becky Fernandez

Photography by Ahonui Productions and Tiare Sweetser

Originally published in Kona Coast City Lifestyle

Kamehameha Day, held June 11th, is an official state holiday honoring and remembering King Kamehameha the Great–who established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. In honor of our Aliʻi there are hoʻolauleʻa (celebration) on every island. Roads are closed for floral parades and lei draping ceremonies take place at the three sites that display statues of Kamehameha. 

This year was no different–and Kailua-Kona has become the “place to be.” With Kamehamehaʻs birth in Kohala, and his final breath taken in Kailua-Kona, there is no better place to honor his legacy on Kamehameha Day. 

The holiday weekend began Friday evening with the opening of the Hawaiʻi Kuauli Pacific & Asia Cultural Festival. Hosted at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort, the festival celebrated its 6th year in Kona. Inspired by New Zealand’s Pasifika Festival, Hawaiʻi Kuauli represents the melting pot of cultures found on Hawaiʻi Island, presenting the creativity and storytelling of the Pacific and Asia through various cultural expressions. During Covid, the festival transitioned to a virtual event and 2023 is the second year back as an in-person and live-streamed, three-day event. 

On Friday evening, a crowd of over 650 people gathered under a clear starlit sky, to watch the festival’s Opening Celebration and Hula Hōʻike. The Hawaiian delegation at Kamakahonu Bay, dressed in traditional costumes of hand-stamped and dyed paʻu lead a very special ‘Aha Pūle, an opening blessing for the event. The delegation presented Hawaiian chants and hula written exclusively for the 2023 festival opening, reminding us of the purpose of the gathering: bringing people together to share our aloha and welcome those visiting from throughout the Pacific & Asia. Cultural groups representing Korea, Tonga, and Sāmoa participated in the festival this year, sharing their songs and dances. Included were Kealakehe Polynesian Club, Island Breeze Productions, and Ka Makani O Ka Moku ʻĀina Hula Studio. 

Following the opening protocol, everyone sat back to listen and watch hula dancers, from keiki to kūpuna. Friday’s Hula Hōʻike featured hālau from Kona, Waimea, and Hilo, performing hula ʻauana and kahiko, sharing the stories of the Kamehameha Dynasty. It was a wonderful evening hosted by Hālau Kaʻeaikahelelani. 

Saturday was a full and exciting day–starting out with the Kai ʻŌpua Canoe Regatta, Kamehameha Day Floral Parade and the Hoʻolauleʻa held at Huliheʻe Palace. A large marketplace filled with artisans was hosted at the Hawaiʻi Kuauli Pacific and Asia Festival. From lauhala weaving, lei makers, to lomi lomi practitioners–there was something for everyone. A Wearable Arts Exhibit was held in the resortʻs mall area, with local designers sharing their stories and cultural expressions on dressed mannequins placed throughout the marketplace. Entertainment was provided by the students of Ke Kula ʻo ‘Ehunuikaimalino Hawaiian Immersion School and their kumu, Kaleo Perry. 

That evening, as the sun began to set, nineteen young warriors participated for the title of Le Kaua Ailau Fireknife Competition Champion. With cash and prizes worth up to $10,000, competitors as young as 13 years old competed in the Vaitaimi division. In the older Matua division, competitors included a three-time world champion, representatives from each of the Hawaiian Islands, and those who had traveled from New Caledonia, Florida, and California. 

The sold-out audience was mesmerized. Each competitor took to the stage and showed no fear as they spun knives covered in fire and performed routines that were dangerous, yet displayed finesse and agility. Hosted by the Siva Afi Company of Oʻahu and Island Breeze Productions, this is the only fire knife competition held on Hawaiʻi Island. 

Sunday morning, the festival held its final event–The Taste of Pacific & Asia, hosted by Chef Chris Galindo of Lindo Culinary Creations. Music by Weldon Kekauoha provided a perfect backdrop to a culinary arts display that satisfied all the senses. Participating chefs from resorts and private catering companies shared tastings of their favorite Pacific or Asian dishes. Guests voted for one of four chefs competing in the Mystery Box Challenge and then were invited to vote for their favorite tasting at the event.

Chef George Gomes of The Club at Hōkuliʻa won the challenge and received a cash prize donated to a youth culinary program of his choice. Courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines New Zealand, visiting celebrity chefs Master Chef Brett McGregor and Chef William Mordido used fresh ingredients brought with them from New Zealand and were voted winners of the People’s Choice Award. Chef Catherine Chew, of Four Seasons at Hualālai, also received recognition for best presentation. 

Mahalo to Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and Island of Hawaiʻi Visitors Bureau for their funding and support through the Community Enrichment Program. Visit to watch the replay.