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May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. Here’s where you’ll find plenty of flower-draped shoulders



Hawaii_Oahu_Honolulu_Waikiki_Hilo_leiTomorrow is May Day, known in the Islands as Lei Day — a day that celebrates Hawaiian culture, focusing on our fragrant symbol of aloha.

One of the largest gatherings will be Oahu’s 86th annual Lei Day Celebration, held at the bandstand in Queen Kapiolani Regional Park  (Waikiki area), 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. The entertainment lineup for the bandstand stage ranges from the Royal Hawaiian Band to hula performances. Also, the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association will perform in a lei exhibit area, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you go, make sure your camera is ready for the investiture of the 2013 Lei Queen and her court, set for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Selection of Lei Day royalty is based on lei-making skills, hula, poise and other attributes, according to the pageant’s organizers. You’ll also want to snap photos of stunning entries in the Lei Contest, which will be displayed from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.Hawaii_Oahu_Honolulu_Waikiki_Hilo_lei

In addition, the celebration will feature Kulana Lei, a “village of Hawaiian artisans” and “Tutu’s Hale,” which will offer lei-making and lauhala-weaving opportunities as well as children’s games, songs, and hula. For more information about the celebration, organized by the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, click here.

On the Big Island, the Hilo Lei Day Festival—a free event in its ninth year — is set for from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow in Kalakaua Park. Festivities will include lei-making demonstrations as well as Hawaiian music and hula performances. For additional information, click here.

The origins of Hawaii’s celebration of May Day as Lei Day date back to 1927, when Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper writer Don Blanding advocated for the creation of a day dedicated to honoring lei-making and the custom of wearing lei. Blanding’s co-worker at the newspaper, columnist Grace Tower Warren, suggested holding the celebration on May 1 and coined the phrase “May Day is Lei Day.” Soon after, musician Leonard “Red” Hawk, and his wife Ruth Hawk, penned the tune May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. The ditty was reportedly first presented as a foxtrot but was rearranged in the late 1920s as a Hawaiian mele for hula.


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Photos: (top) Dana Edmunds; (bottom) Queen Kapiolani statue at regional park, Tor Johnson - both images, Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

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