King Kamehameha Day Parade Returns After 2-Year Hiatus

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Tammy Medeiros rides as a Maui pa‘u princess in 2019 King Kamehameha Day parade. This year, she rides at pa‘u queen. (PC: Karen Anderson)

The King Kamehameha Day parade will once again take over downtown Kona this coming Saturday after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also the 150th anniversary of King Kamehameha Day statewide, the parade and celebrations takes on a special and hopeful meaning for those involved.

“I’m excited to have the event at all,” said Manu Powers, chairperson for the parade. “It’s been a couple of years. We’ve all had disappointments and just getting back to some version of normal and getting back to traditions that are so long storied is so special.”

The parade starts at 9 a.m. at Old Kona Airport Park and go south down Kuakini Highway to Palani Road, then on down to the pier and along Ali‘i Drive to the Royal Kona Resort. The parade is known for its pa‘u riders and pa‘u princesses and queen.


With the parade falling on the actual holiday, Powers said, it presented a unique challenge as there are events going on islandwide and throughout the state, which has spread resources throughout the neighbor islands. As a result, the pa‘u units will be scaled down.

“It may not look like it has in the past but the pa‘u units will still be as spectacular as they always have been,” Powers said. “We’ve been able to execute a parade despite the challenges, lack of manpower and resources.”

The pa‘u riders hold a special place in Hawaiian culture as wrapping pa‘u is a dying art form. The pa‘u is a type of culotte made of 9 to 12 yards of fabric, wrapped in a way that flows past the rider’s stirrups to the ground. The skirt is held together with kukui nuts twisted inside the fabric and tucked into the waistband.

The tradition dates to the 1800s when women wore pa‘u to protect their fancy clothing when riding to a party or gathering.


“It’s a singular form of art and this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate to the public our evolution in culture especially in the ranching community,” Powers said. “It would be a shame if the pa‘u wrapping died.”

Along with the pa‘u riders are the lei that adorn the horses. Powers said it’s lei making artistry at its highest form.

“The many hours of love and care put in every unit is quite spectacular and a tradition we hope continues for the next 200 to 300 years,” she said.

Powers added she believes the King Kamehameha Day celebrations is important to Hawai‘i Island’s tradition and culture.


“We need these marques events that communicate to the world what’s important to us — a group of people dedicated to coming together to make things special,” she said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, Powers knows there are concerns.

“We hope the community is able to attend and everyone will make the right decisions where their health is concerned,” Powers said.

Following the parade will be a free concert and Ho‘olaule‘a at Hulihe‘e Palace from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be cultural demonstrations, performances by hula halau, live music and food.

Click here for more information on Kamehameha Day parade and festivities.

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