Aloha Festivals Celebrates the ‘Ukulele with This Year’s Theme
Aloha Festivals, what has now become a beloved annual event and Hawaii’s premier cultural showcase, didn’t start out with bells, whistles or pomp and circumstance. In fact, this month-long celebration focused on preserving the unique traditions of the islands actually started as a tiny inkling of an idea within the hearts and minds of three people.
In 1946, a trio of former Honolulu Jaycees had a vision of creating a forum, where people could join together in fellowship and celebration, sharing with one another the culture of the islands. So dedicated to this mission were the Jaycees that in order to get the needed start-up cash one even mortgaged their home! They believed that a celebration of Hawaiʻi’s diverse heritage would foster pride and bring out the best of the islands for all to enjoy.
You can visit the Aloha Festivals website at www.alohafestivals.com.
The first held event, held in 1946, was known as Aloha Week, and over the seven decades hence has become officially known as the Aloha Festivals — Hawaiʻi’s festival celebrating all things Hawaiian via authentic music, dance, cuisine and art — and its enjoyment of such a long legacy proves the Honolulu Jaycees were not alone in their hopes and. Further testament to how much Hawaiʻi believes in and cherishes the event is seen in the fact that all festivities are coordinated by a completely volunteer board of directors.
A Royal Family
Starting out as a stage pageant in Kapiʻolani Park, the roots of this event run deep and royal. From the beginning, a “royal family” was selected from volunteers and then presented to the public with great (and gorgeous) pomp and circumstance. This “royal family,” now called the Aloha Festivals Royal Court, has always been comprised of people from the community who were willing to preside over the other events of the Festivals, representing Hawaiʻi’s royalty.
The following year, the Aloha Festival’s second in operation, a parade was added, and it brought legions of fans eager to witness the wonder from their curbside roosts in Waikīkī.
A Stream of Fresh Flowers
Paʻu riders, arrayed in a kaleidoscope of colors, each representing the different islands, add grace and majesty to the Aloha Festivals Floral Parade. And since the event’s inception, it was always the rule that marching units, floats, bands and horse riding units were, and still are, garlanded with only fresh flowers. The magnificent parade kept growing in beauty and splendor, and size of spectator crowds, and soon attracted the attention of CBS, which began filming it each year. Throughout the ’90’s, 50 million viewers nationwide would tune in, mesmerized and appreciative of the beauty and significance of the Festival.
2019 Theme: Nā Mo‘olelo ʻUkulele: ‘Ukulele Stories
Now in its 73rd year, Aloha Festivals is one of Hawai‘i’s most highly regarded and oldest cultural celebrations, integrating the traditions and cultures of the islands through music, dance, cuisine and art. The tradition carries on today, with this year’s 2019 Aloha Festivals theme: Nā Mo‘olelo ʻUkulele, meaning “‘Ukulele Stories”
The ‘ukulele is symbolic of the multicultural heritage of the Hawaiian Islands. While a beloved instrument and arguably the most synonymous with Hawai‘i and Hawaiian music, the ‘ukulele is influenced by an instrument introduced in 1879 by immigrants from Madeira, Portugal. Upon arrival to Hawai‘i’s shores after a four-month journey, passenger and musician João Fernandez launched into song and dance to celebrate their safe arrival, playing his “machéte de Braga” or “braguinha,” the Portuguese name for the four-stringed instrument. Hawaiians renamed it “‘ukulele” or “jumping flea” in reference to the jumping motion of the fingers on the strings while playing. Kānaka (Hawaiians) fell in love with the instrument. It was proclaimed the national instrument of the Kingdom of Hawai’i by Queen Lili‘uokalani in the late 1800’s. Today, the ‘ukulele is the Hawai‘i State official musical instrument and Hawai‘i’s musical ambassador to the world.
Aloha Festivals Events Line-up
This year’s Aloha Festivals celebration takes place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 28 at various locations on Oʻahu, sharing the history and traditions of Hawai‘i and the unique spirit of aloha with both kamaʻāina (local residents) and malihini (visitors).
All events are free and open to the public and are supported by the sale of Aloha Festivals ribbons and merchandise from participating retailers. Aloha Festivals merchandise will also be sold onsite at all events.
Saturday, Aug. 31
Aloha Festivals Royal Court Investiture & Opening Ceremony, 4 and 5 p.m., respectively
Investiture – The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Coconut Grove
Opening Ceremony – Royal Hawaiian Center, Royal Grove
The Ali‘i – king, queen, prince and princess – take their places in this year’s 2017 Aloha Festivals Royal Court right on the grounds of Helumoa, which was originally the home of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Court members receive the royal cloak, helmet, head feather lei and other symbols of their reign. Traditional chant and hula kahiko (ancient hula) highlight the event.
Saturday, Sept. 14
Pearlridge Keiki Ho‘olaule‘a, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Pearlridge Center will celebrate Aloha Festivals by offering a full day of free activities, demonstrations, arts and crafts, and continuous stage performances by participating keiki (children’s) musical groups and hula hālau (schools).
Saturday, Sept. 21
Waikīkī Ho‘olaule‘a, 6-9:30 p.m.
This year marks the 66th Annual Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa, Hawai‘i’s largest, most festive block party. Each year, thousands of people take to the streets for a fantastic time, featuring an evening filled with a plethora of local food, fun, authentic Hawaiian music and entertainment. Top island performers will also be strutting their stuff, along with hula hālau, while beautiful Hawaiian crafts and floral lei will be on display and made available for purchase.
Saturday, Sept. 28
73rd Annual Aloha Festivals Floral Parade, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Kalākaua Avenue from Ala Moana Park to Kapi‘olani Park
At this yearly celebration, guests can look forward to witnessing a colorful equestrian procession of pā‘ū (long-skirted) riders, exquisite floats with cascades of Hawaiian flowers, hula hālau, and more — all of which converge together to enliven iconic Kalākaua Avenue.
More information about Aloha Festivals and its events can be found at www.alohafestivals.com, Facebook (facebook.com/AlohaFestivals), Twitter (@AlohaFstvls), Instagram (@alohafestivals) or by calling (808) 923-2030.
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