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May Day in Hawaii: What it is. Where to go.


Hawaii_May_DayTomorrow is May 1: May Day, or Lei Day, in Hawaii.

It’s an annual celebration of Hawaiian culture that’s popular with residents and visitors alike. A day for attending music and hula shows (many organized just for the occasion), sporting your best aloha wear and, especially, wearing colorful lei.

Hawaii’s May Day origins date back to 1927, when writer Don Blanding suggested in an article for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that a holiday be created to honor the custom of making and wearing lei. Colleague and fellow Star-Bulletin columnist Grace Tower Warren came up with the idea of having the holiday on May 1 in conjunction with May Day, stating that "May Day is Lei Day." The tagline stuck.

The first Lei Day was held on May 1, 1928, with Honoluluans greatly encouraged to wear the flowery wreaths. The practice soon spread throughout the Islands, encompassing all facets of Hawaiian culture—hula, music, cultural demonstrations and lavish court processions. Still, lei has always remained at the heart of Hawaii May Day festivities.

Lei were certainly the focus of last year’s Honolulu May Day hoopla. The celebration culminated with the city-sponsored construction of a 5,336-foot-long lei in Waikiki’s Kapiolani Park—good enough for entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Hawaii_May_DayThere won’t be a giant garland at the city May Day festivities this year, but there’ll still be lots to see and do. The most popular events are the investiture of the Lei Queen and her court, and the May Day Lei Contest. The 2009 royal court ceremony starts at 10:15 a.m. at Kapiolani Park bandstand, while judging for the lei contest takes place from 10 a.m to noon. The lei contest exhibit and a full afternoon of entertainment from Hawaiian bands Kapena, Manao Company and several hula halau (hula troupes) follows, from noon to 5:30 p.m.

Don’t have a lei? Booths selling all manner of lei, Hawaiian crafts and food will be open in the park all day. For a complete schedule Kapiolani Park May Day events, click here.

Other May Day-only events:

Hawaii_May_Day The Halekulani resort’s House Without A Key in Waikiki celebrates May Day with an evening of song and dance from Hawaii’s first May Day in 1928, and the era. Stories about various lei will be shared throughout the evening. Cocktails here are great. The view is stunning, too—oceanfront, with a Diamond Head backdrop. Wear a lei. Click here for more information.


Outside of Waikiki, drop by the ever-popular monthly First Friday Gallery Walk in downtown Honolulu’s Chinatown culture and arts district. In honor of May Day, several artists will be displaying wares with a distinctly Hawaiian aesthetic in the Mendonca Building Courtyard: including wooden bowls, oil paintings and photography. Click here for more info and a list of artists.

Post-May Day events:

Hawaii_May_Day The Brothers Cazimero May Day Concert will be held on May 2, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center this year instead of the Waikiki Shell. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Click here for details.

Ever wondered where the lei from the May Day festivities end up? On May 2, the colorful lei will be placed on the tombs of the alii (Hawaiian royalty) at the Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu and upon King Lunalilo's tomb at Kawaiahao Church in Honolulu.

For more insight into the flowers and foliage used to make Hawaii lei, check out the feature “What's In Your Lei?” in the May/June 2009 issue of HAWAII Magazine. You’ll find copies at most national bookstores and newsstands, by print subscription, or digital subscription.

Photo credits: City and County of Honolulu (top),
Halekulani (third from top), Mountain Apple Co. (above)

 
lanai_city_endangeredLanai City, one of Hawaii’s last largely intact plantation towns, has been included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s latest list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, released this week.

The island of Lanai’s modestly-populated residential center— also the former hub of its long-gone pineapple industry—was included on the annual list due to planned changes the NTHP believes will permanently alter Lanai City’s historic visage.

Still known as the Pineapple Island, Lanai, from the 1920s through 1980s, was most famous for its more than 20,000 acres of prime Hawaii pineapple plantation land, founded by businessman James Dole. Since the demise of the island’s pineapple industry in 1993, Lanai’s main industry has largely been the small, but vital tourist trade drawn to the island’s seclusion, two world-class Four Seasons resorts, and quaint old-Hawaii charm of Lanai City (pop. 2,500).lanai_city_endangered

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has annually compiled endangered places lists for two decades, wrote as its reason for Lanai City’s inclusion:

I
n the 1920s, Dole, who owned the entire island, created a thriving company town, complete with hundreds of plantation-style homes, a Laundromat, jail, courthouse and police station, all centered around a tree-lined park named in his honor.

The company town of Lanai City looks very much as it did in its 1920s heyday. There are no traffic lights, no malls, no public transportation and less than 30 miles of paved road on the island.

Today, Lanai is almost entirely owned by Castle & Cooke, one of the largest private landowners in Hawaii. The company, which also owns Dole Foods and two high-end Four Seasons resorts on Lanai, recently submitted a three-part plan calling for the demolition or alteration of 15-20 historic buildings in Lanai City to make way for large-scale commercial development.

The new development proposal includes an oversized, out-of-scale grocery store, dramatically incompatible with the historic downtown. The grocery store’s parking lot alone would consume an entire city block. Local preservationists hope to convince Castle & Cooke that a preserved Lanai City is a draw for heritage tourists and is, therefore, an economically viable solution.


Is it likely Lanai City’s inclusion on the Endangered Historic Places list will alter Castle & Cooke’s plans to some extent? Actually, yes.

lanai_city_endangeredOver the years, the list has become one of the most effective tools for saving America’s most at-risk architectural, cultural and natural heritage sites. Of the 211 sites cited since the NTHP began compiling lists in 1988, only six have been lost.

Want to learn more about Lanai and Lanai City?

For our March/April 2009 issue, HAWAII Magazine editor John Heckathorn and photographer David Croxford traveled to Lanai to meet its residents and experience its natural wonder. See what they found on their trip in the feature “Hidden Hawaii: Cool, green and serene Lanai.” Click here.

In April 2008, I visited Lanai to put together a HAWAII Magazine feature on the island’s diverse collection of beaches. Along the way, I couldn’t help taking photos of more than just sand and surf. HawaiiMagazine.com got my pics. Click here for a slideshow.

For a look at other sites on the 2009 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, click here.

Photos of Lanai City: David Croxford
 
aston_Hawaii_vacation_blowoutHere’s another great deal on hotel rooms in Hawaii this summer and fall.

Aston Hotels & Resorts is offering 40 percent off daily room rates at all of its Hawaii properties this summer and fall with its “Vacation Bailout” program.

If you can plan a trip here for any time between June 12 through Dec. 21, 2009, you qualify.

Call 866-774-2924, or click here to book online.

aston_Hawaii_vacation_blowout“Vacation Bailout” prices range from $88 dollars a night for the Maui Lu in south Maui’s Kihei resort area to $296 a night for more luxe accommodations at Aston’s oceanfront Waikiki Beach Tower on Oahu. With more than 26 Aston resorts to choose from on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island, there’s likely a rate that fits your budget.
 
Photos: Aston Waikiki Beach Tower (top); Aston Kaanapali Shores (bottom).
 
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Waikiki_Spam_Jam_2009Where can you see people dress up in life-size Spam can costumes? In Waikiki, of course!

This year’s annual Waikiki Spam Jam street festival kicks off tomorrow (4/25) on Kalakaua Avenue. The block-party celebration—which runs from 4 to 10 p.m.—includes two stages of Hawaiian music, a variety of Hawaiian crafts booths and merchandise stands selling Spam-themed items such as the Spam T-shirts and slippers. There’ll also be a dozen Hawaii restaurants that’ll reinvent the popular luncheon meat beyond the musubi version. Click here to see a list of what restaurants will be serving.

Waikiki_Spam_Jam_2009According to SpamJamHawaii.com, “More Spam is consumed per person in Hawaii than in any other state in the United States. Almost seven million cans of Spam are eaten every year in Hawaii.” Imagine that!

If you hate Spam, here’s a chance to give it away. Volunteers will be collecting cans of Spam for the Hawaii Food Bank. For each donation, you can enter to win a trip for two to the neighbor island of your choice.

Admission to the block party is free. Last year, approximately 20,000 visitors and local residents attended the festival. Click here to view the entertainment schedule. If you’re planning to drive to the festival, we’ve got the parking information you’ll need.

Photos courtesy of Waikiki Spam Jam
  
Prince_Resorts_Hawaii_family_kids_travel_packagesPrince Resorts Hawaii’s oceanfront accommodations in Hawaii are more affordable this summer for the ohana (family). Plus, you don’t have to stay in the same room as your children.

Families who book the first room at a Prince Resort Hawaii hotel will receive the second room free.

Here’s a list of the hotels offering the summer deal:

Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki—rates start at $330
Maui Prince Hotel—rates start at $425
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel—rates start at $415
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel—rates start at $700

The “2 for 1” package accommodation deals are good through Sept. 30, 2009.

Prince_Resorts_Hawaii_family_kids_travel_packagesAlso, from April through Sept. 30, Hawaii Prince Resorts is offering a “Kids Eat Free” program. Parents can enjoy a main course entrĂ©e, while their keiki (12 years and younger) enjoy a complimentary meal off the children’s menu. There are 17 different dinning locations to choose from. Click here to see the entire list.

Other keiki summer specials at the Prince Resorts Hawaii hotels include the “Kids Golf Free” program for children 17 years and younger.

Prince_Resorts_Hawaii_family_kids_travel_packagesFor additional keiki perks—from hula, lei making and Hawaiian lessons to snorkel and boogie board rentals—we recommend checking with your hotel’s concierge.

Photos courtesy of
Prince Resorts Hawaii





  
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East_Maui_Taro_Festival_2009If you happen to be on Maui this weekend, you’re in luck. The annual East Maui Taro Festival kicks off this Saturday in Hana.

Each year, the Hana community transforms its baseball park into a place that pays tribute to the ancient Hawaiian staple—the kalo (taro). The two-day festival includes Hawaiian music, arts and crafts and various food booths offering taro-related products. Attendees will also have a hands-on opportunity to pound poi.

On Sunday, taro pancakes will be served for breakfast along with scrambled eggs, rice and sausage. The breakfast costs $8.50 for adults and $5 for keiki.

After breakfast, there are two free tours open to the public: The excursion to Kahanu Gardens and Piilanihale Heiau (sacred temple) starts at 11 a.m., and the Kipahulu Kapahu Living Farm field trip leaves the Hana Ballpark at 2 p.m. No reservations are required. Simply show up on Sunday.

East_Maui_Taro_Festival_2009Taro, which is often thought of as the ancient Hawaiians’ life force, is often pounded into poi, but chefs have also found a way to make taro chips, breads and cookies. You’ll even find taro burgers on the grill.

Admission to the two-day festival is free. Click here to view the complete schedule.

(top): Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
(left): Courtesy of the East Maui Taro Festival

 
Win_Jack_Johnson_guitarJack Johnson’s annual Kokua Festival benefit concerts are taking a break this year, but his non-profit, Kokua Hawaii Foundation, is holding its inaugural benefit auction, starting today.

Collectible items from the festival’s former performers are being auctioned off for charity. Up for grabs? Johnson’s autographed guitar, Willie Nelson’s sneakers and tickets to attend Eddie Vedder’s concert in Hawaii.

There’s even a pair of tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band and a Koolau handcrafted ukulele autographed by Johnson.

Kokua Hawaii Foundation supports environmental education in Hawaii’s schools and communities. So, of course, it’s starting the auction on Earth Day.

Bidding continues through May 1. All proceeds support Kokua Hawaii Foundation's programs. Click here to see the entire auction list. Good luck.

Photo courtesy of Kokua Hawaii Foundation
  

Check out this Mick Fleetwood Hawaii Band video


fleetwood"Maui is the place where I hope to my long and healthy latter years," says 61-year-old Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, who moved his entire family to Maui's Napili shorefront—wife, twin daughters and his mother.

But make no mistake.  Fleetwood has not retired.  He's currently on tour with a (mostly) reunited Fleetwood Mac, currently in Texas, then points West, tour dates now scheduled through May.

However, as we reveal in the Mele section of HAWAII Magazine's May/June issue, Fleetwood can't stop playing, and now has two bands based on Maui. 

First, the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band harkens back to the early days of Fleetwood Mac, when it was a four-man blues ensemble.  Fleetwood took advantage of a hiatus in the Fleetwood Mac tour to fly back and rip up a Waikiki venue, Level 4, with the blues band, all of whose members live on Maui.  The band's double live album, Blue Again, went to No. 18 on iTunes even before the CD release.

His second band is more Island-style.  In addition to Vito, Mick Fleetwood's Island Rumours Band  includes an array of remarkable Hawaiian musicians, including  Willie K., Eric Gilliom, Lopaka Colon, and one of the strongest talents to emerge from contemporary Hawai‘i, Moloka‘i’s Raiatea Helm.  What's it like?  See and hear for yourself. 

Here's great footage of the band and a video interview with Mick.





Fleetwood Photo: Tony Novak-Clifford
 

Where to buy Hawaii-grown papayas


You ask. We answer.

HAWAII Magazine Reader Richard A. Watkins of Anaheim, Calif., writes:

I am looking for a source where I can purchase Hawaii-grown papayas. Do you know of one?

There’s nothing quite like the taste of a fresh Hawaii-grown papaya. For those away from the Islands, however, getting their papaya fix can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are several online companies offering the fruit for delivery year round.

Hawaiian gift wholesalers HawaiianKineStuff.com and HawaiiVacationGifts sell an assortment of Island-themed merchandise including scented soaps and tiki torches—and Big Island papayas.

The sites sell 10-pound cases of 8-10 papayas for around $75, shipping included. Both sites ship throughout the continental US only.

Also check out the Volcano Isle Fruit Company, which seems largely focused on papaya. The Kapoho-based group has been committed to growing the fruit in the rich, volcanic soil of the Big Island for the past 30 years.

The company offers two types: the golden Rainbow papaya and the pink-fleshed Sunred variety.  If you can’t decide on just one you can order a mix of both. A 10-pound box goes for the more-than-reasonable price of $49.95. Shipping is free for anywhere within the US, including Alaska. However, take note: they ship just once a week, on Mondays.

Upon receiving your papayas it’s best to let them sit for a couple days, as they are typically picked in a green stage to avoid spoilage during delivery. Skin color and feel are the best indicators of a fruit’s ideal ripeness. At least 75 percent of the papaya’s skin should be colored and the fruit will give slightly when squeezed.

Be patient. It’s a small price to pay for Hawaiian papaya perfection.


 

Hawaii’s Merrie Monarch hula festival names winners


This year’s Merrie Monarch Festival has come to a conclusion. Ke Kai O Kahiki walked away with the big prize of top hula halau.

The Oahu halau (troupe) won the festival’s overall honor Saturday night thanks to a strong showing in the men’s categories. They won the men’s kahiko (traditional) competition with one of the festival’s most talked about dances, a hula mai, or procreation chant, and placed second for the men’s auana (modern) dance.

Halau Na Mamo O Puuanahulu—led by kumu hula (hula teacher) Sonny Ching—placed second overall for the second straight year, with top scores in women’s kahiko and men’s auana dance. The group won the women’s overall award.

The festival opened last Thursday with Cherissa Henoheanapuaikawaokele Kane winning the title of Miss Aloha Hula 2009, the festival’s top individual award.  

Kane—a dancer with singer-songwriter Kealii Reichel’s Halau Kealaokamaile—also won the festival’s Hawaiian Language Award for her chanting skills. The prize? $1,000.

Video of the winning performances will be available on KITV.com throughout the week. In the meantime, you can browse a collection of clips of other halau from last weekend’s events. Click here and scroll down until you arrive at the “video” header for a list of videos.

For a complete list of Merrie Monarch Festival winners, click here.

Photo: the men of Halau Ke Kai O Kahiki performing, by Dennis Oda for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

 
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