The 63rd annual Aloha Festival's two most-popular events are coming up on two Saturdays—tonight and Sept. 26. If you’re on Oahu—especially if you’re staying in Waikiki—you’ll want to save check both of them out:
• Sept. 19, 7 p.m. — The Aloha Festivals Waikiki Ho‘olaulea (celebration) takes over Waikiki’s main drag Kalakaua Avenue (between Lewers and Kapahulu Avenues), with hula performances, live music stages and food and lei booths spread along 12 blocks. The massive block party is always a great night in Waikiki.
• Sept. 26, 9 a.m. — The Aloha Festivals Floral Parade offers folks staying in Waikiki the best curbside spots for viewing. It's likely the most colorful parade you’ll ever see, too, with its procession of equestrian riders, hula halau (groups), marching bands and, most famously, its large floats lavishly decorated with Hawaii flowers. The parade starts at Ala Moana Park on Kapiolani Boulevard before turning onto Kalakaua Avenue, and ending at Kapiolani Park.
The Aloha Festivals was originally created in 1946 to mimic the Makahiki celebration season (Hawaiian New Year), which honored the Hawaiian god Lono.
At its 1940s inception, the festival was called Aloha Week—a volunteer observation of Hawaiian culture, that even then featured a floral parade through the streets of Honolulu and Waikiki as its highlight. As more events were added to its schedule, Aloha Week’s seven days proved too few. It was renamed the Aloha Festivals in 1991—a name more fitting for what was then a two-month, six-island celebration, with more than a hundred events.
Sadly, Aloha Festivals events since last year have mostly been limited to Oahu due to a downturn in funding. Even the much beloved Aloha Festivals Floral Parade was in danger of cancellation in 2008 until funding from the City & County of Honolulu and private donors eventually saved it.
Aloha Festivals events are again fewer this year, but the parade and ho‘olaulea go on.
For a complete schedule of 2009 Aloha Festivals events and more info, visit www.alohafestivals.com, or call (808) 391-8714.
Photo: Aloha Festivals