When you look at all of Hawaii’s modern landscape, it may be hard to believe that, not too long ago, Hawaii was mostly dotted with expansive plantations. Sugarcane (then sugar beets) and pineapple plantations were the backbone of Hawaii life, and the riches they created “built” most of what we see today.

So, it’s no surprise many islands are starting and perpetuating “plantation festivals” to commemorate the important place plantation life holds in our history. And, here’s the best part: The plantation festivals in Hawaii are REALLY for visitors — to show YOU how life used to look before Hawaii’s modern age.

Maui

It’s a pretty exciting time for visitors to Maui. This year, an inaugural Plantation Festival is scheduled for Saturday, July 23, 2016 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Queen Kaahumanu Center (QKC).

The event is a celebration of Maui’s multicultural community, and it’s an opportunity for Maui visitors to experience the island’s plantation-era past.

Organizers say the event will consist of cultural and booths that will include education elements and an ethnic menu.

a sugar mill on maui

Photo: joanna orpia

The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) Puunene sugar mill on Maui just closed, displacing many workers who now must find other employment.

Cultural entertainment will include a festival fashion show featuring traditional and contemporary cultural designs. A plantation history walk will display historical facts and photos; and for the keiki, an art contest and interactive plantation games are scheduled.

Guests will also have the opportunity to participate to win prizes with the Plantation Passport, a guide through the many cultural booths at the event. Passports must be stamped by each cultural organization in order to be eligible for QKC discount coupons and an opportunity to win the grand Las Vegas vacation giveaway.

You’ll even have a chance to help displaced HC and S plantation workers (the plantation shut its doors a few months ago). Members of the A Hui Hou Fund Steering Committee will also be selling “Honor our Past. Grow our Future” merchandise in support of the workers.

Click here for more information.

Kauai

This year’s Koloa Plantation Days Festival starts on July 22, 2016 and runs through Sunday, July 31, 2016, and venues are scattered throughout Koloa.  Like Maui’s Plantation Festival, Koloa Plantation Days celebrates the many ethnic groups that came to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations, and the Hawaiians who welcomed them. The island’s rich, cultural diversity is celebrated through music, dance, costumes, and food throughout this ten-day festival.

Held in the area where Hawaii’s first sugar plantation was founded in 1835, Koloa Plantation Days opens with the 17th annual Plantation Days Rodeo weekend featuring championship roping, bull riding, and unique Hawaii events reflecting Paniolo culture. Multiple activities take place every day, including guided walks and talks of the area such as the historic Hapa Trail Walk and Old Koloa Town Walk, “talk stories” on plantation life, a visit to the Koloa Mill site and a historic film night and plantation era exhibit.

people on horses with flags

Photo: Ron Kosen

This year’s colorful parade on Saturday, July 30th through Koloa town highlights the theme “Celebrating Our Plantation Roots” with floral floats, walking and equestrian units, decorated vehicles, vintage cars, and a marching band.

Visitors will enjoy local foods, music and shopping throughout the week including craft fairs, cooking demonstrations, a free Polynesian revue and celebration events with great live local music. Parents can bring their children to enjoy special activities like keiki fishing, outdoor Hawaiian games, mini golf and a Keiki Ukulele Competition. Outdoor and sporting events include a doubles tennis tournament and a Family Fun Run along the shoreline.

This year’s colorful parade on Saturday, July 30th through Koloa town highlights the theme “Celebrating Our Plantation Roots” with floral floats, walking and equestrian units, decorated vehicles, vintage cars, and a marching band.  After the parade, stroll to Knudsen (Koloa) Ball Park for a full day of festivities with non-stop entertainment, featuring music representing the diverse cultural mix from the sugar era. For a $3 entry fee, residents and visitors enjoy music and entertainment, delicious local food, keiki rides and activities, a silent auction, and Kauai’s largest craft fair of Hawaii-made products make this a full day of fun.

You can incorporate Koloa Plantation Days into a full day of Kauai sightseeing, too. When you book a Kauai Jeep Tour through Hawaii Jeep Tours, ask your tour professional if a stop at the festival can be added to your itinerary.

Click here for a schedule of events.

When will you have another chance to really immerse yourself in plantation lifei? Not for a good long while, I suppose! So, take advantage of these two plantation festivals in Hawaii, and learn about life before skyscrapers and highways!

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