2nd annual Waikōloa Lei Day Festival showcases Hawaiian culture
The smell of flowers lingered in the air while a mix of visitors, residents, hula dancers, keiki and bartenders gathered Sunday at three venues for the 2nd annual Waikōloa Lei Day Festival.
Nearly a century ago, Lei Day started in Hawai’i at the Bank of Hawai’i in downtown Honolulu on May 1, 1928. Each island is represented by a special flower. For the Big Island, it’s the red blossom of the ‘Ōhi’a tree.
Mandi Post, owner of Kona Treehouse, a botanical boutique, offered a free workshop to show the rich tradition of lei making at the Kingsʻ Shop.
“It’s great to be able to share the beauty of what Hawai’i has to offer,” Post said as participants of all ages made their own lei.
At the Waikōloa Beach Resort, hālau performed hula dances while local bartenders competed in a cocktail contest.
“Their energy was so contagious, and they put on a great show,” Terri Stephens, a visitor from North Carolina, said about the mixologists. “The music was awesome, and it was such a fun event.”
At the same time, the Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa had its own line of activities for the festival, including dancing, vendors, food, music and a group effort to finish what is poised to be the world’s largest lei. They are trying to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Bryson Lanakila Diprete, guest activity coordinator at the Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, said: “We’re humbled to have the opportunity to engage with the community and celebrate this connection to our culture.”
Diprete said the official measuring for the lei will be held Monday at the Queen’s Bowl at noon.
Currently the longest fresh-flower lei measured at 3.11 miles long and was made in Chennai India. The volunteer effort is to make the lei 5 miles long, all with Hawai’i Island greenery.
Also participating in the activities was Shyla Victor, Miss Kona Coffee 2023. She said: “It is such a big part of Hawaiian culture and I’m proud to be a part of perpetuating the tradition and sharing it with visitors.”
John Alwine, the general manager at the Kings’ Shop, said this was his first time putting together the event and he was happy with the turnout.
“This event brings visitors and residents together to join in festivities and is a great opportunity for families to come out and enjoy and to help showcase local business owners,” he said.
The Queens’ Marketplace also was part of the festival, with vendors, music and workshops.
Zelle Phelps, also visiting from North Carolina, said: “I would definitely come back and check it out if I had the chance to visit again.”