20th Annual Lili‘uokalani Birthday Festival

IF you happen to be in Hawaii this weekend, you might want to check out this free event…

The 20th annual He Hali‘a Aloha No Lili‘uokalani (A Cherished Memory of the Queen) is slated for 9:30 a.m. until pau this Saturday, Sept. 7, at the gardens on Banyan Drive in Hilo, Hawaii.

After restoration of Lili‘uokalani Gardens and the addition of ADA pathways in 1999, the gardens reopened in September 2000 with a celebration of the Queen Lili‘uokalani’s birthday. In recent years, Jacqueline “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti helped codify the date of Hilo’s celebration as the first Saturday in September after the queen’s birthday.

The free, family-oriented festival will feature live entertainment including the Kalapana Awa Band with Ikaika Marzo, Randy Lorenzo and Friends, Taishoji Taiko, Darlene Ahuna, Waiakea Elementary School Ukulele Band and Braddah Waltah Aipolani.

Mass hula with an orchid drop will take place at 1 p.m. Children’s events throughout the day will include activities with the Lili‘uokalani Trust, a bouncing castle and water slide in the meadow, a scavenger hunt with a “medal” presented to each completed entry, and a costume photo opportunity with Japan Airlines. Dress up as a pilot or stewardess.

Additional special activities during the festival will include tours of the Shipman Power Plant by staff from Hawaii Electric Light Co. from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., a telling of the history of the banyan trees with author Jane Hoff and a special presentation about the Hawaiian monarchy.

Liliuokalani_in_London_(PPWD-16-4.014)

Queen Lili‘uokalani, photo from http://www.ozy.com

A little about Queen Lili‘uokalani…

Lili‘uokalani was the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. She was born Sept. 2, 1838, and her name at birth was Lili‘u Loloku Walania Kamaka‘eha. After her baptism, her name was Lydia Kamaka‘eha. Upon being named heir to the throne, “okalani” was added to her given name as an indication of her royal rank, resulting in the name we know now: Lili‘uokalani.

In January 1891, King Kalakaua died and Liliuokalani became the first woman to take the throne. She would also be the kingdom’s last ruler. After she attempted to establish a new constitution that would restore power to the monarchy and the Hawaiian people, a group known as the “Committee of Safety” staged a coup with the support of U.S. Minister John Stevens. Wishing to spare her people a bloody conflict, Liliuokalani stepped down but appealed to President Grover Cleveland to restore her to power. Despite his sympathy to her plight, the president’s efforts ultimately proved ineffective, and in 1894 annexationists established the Republic of Hawaii, with Sanford Dole named its first president.

Liliuokalani lived out her days at her Washington Place estate, where she frequently received visitors from near and abroad coming to pay her their respects. She died from complications related to a stroke on November 11, 1917, at age 79, and was honored with a state funeral. Her remains were interred in the Royal Mausoleum at Mauna ‘Ala.

Liliuokalni was educated at the missionary-run Royal School, where she learned to speak fluent English and received some musical training. She would retain her interest in music and poetry, producing more than 160 songs over the course of her life, including the beloved “Aloha ‘Oe.”

Aloha ‘Oe

The song is a cultural symbol for Hawaii. There are several variations and beliefs about the background of the song but the true story behind the origin of the song is about one time when the queen was leaving Maunawili Ranch nestled against the Ko’olau Mountains on the windward side of Oahu. Riding horseback home towards Honolulu, the legend says Queen Lili’uokalani witnessed so much of what we now know to be part of Aloha ‘Oe, most notably the farewell between Colonel James Harbottle Boyd and a young Maunawili girl.

Five years later in August of 1883, Aloha ‘Oe made its mainland debut in San Francisco. Within a year, Aloha ‘Oe was published all over the world and could be heard from German harbors to the tallest peaks of the Swiss Alps. The song was sung as ships entered and left from Honolulu Harbor and became known as a bittersweet farewell song for the monarchy.

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