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Hawaii celebrates heritage each September with a festival that brings together people from all the islands.
The theme of this year’s Aloha Festival is “Mele Ailana: Celebrate Island Music.” It kicks off Thursday (September 2) with the investiture of the 2010 Royal Court, followed by an opening ceremony that includes traditional hula and chant. This beautiful ceremony on the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village is filled with history and tradition. As with all the events this month, it is a treat for the senses, with bright colors from the flowers and clothing and the enchanting combination of music and movement that is hula.
The event that most people associate with the Aloha Festival is the floral parade, which will be on Saturday September 25. It begins at 9 am and runs from Ala Moana Park along Kalakaua Avenue to Kapiolani Park. It is truly amazing – floats with beautiful flowers and entertainment and more marching bands than I would have bet could exist on such small islands. Even tiny NiihAu sends its Island Princess Pau rider and her court.
I happened upon the parade by accident weeks after moving here. I was amazed by the many high school and military marching bands, the civic organizations who created floats along with local businesses, the vintage and custom cars, and so much more. I was especially impressed that the hula groups ranged from small children to silver-haired men and women, all beautiful in movement. This was my first glimpse of Hawaii as a collection of communities – each distinct with local pride, and yet united in spirit.
This year’s theme celebrates more than traditional chant, it extends to contemporary island music that builds on tradition. To quote festival organizers, “European-introduced ukulele and guitar combine with ancient instruments and state-of-the-art technology.” When combined with the voices of talented island artists, “you get a kind of musical magic that soothes the spirit.” This invokes the Hawaiian word Nahenahe, meaning “sweet and melodious.”
The Aloha Festival on Oahu is a great way to experience Hawaii. Many events are free or of nominal cost and do draw locals as well as visitors. As with the theme, the Festival itself weaves tradition with modern trends and influences to celebrate Hawaii’s unique way of life.