PO’IPU — Although black rain clouds toyed with the mountain range in the background, there was no rain at Prince Kuhio Park yesterday.
Instead, representatives of numerous Hawaiian organizations congregated on the manicured grounds to pay tribute to Prince Kuhio Kalanianaole Piikoi.
March 26 is observed as Kuhio Day in Hawai’i, an event marked by a holiday that was established in 1949.
Warren Perry, serving as “po’o” designated by kupuna Janet Kahalekomo, masterfully molded the formalities of the ceremony with contemporary wit to keep both visitors and dignitaries entertained throughout the program.
Perry said he’s been doing this for over 20 years, and welcomed the crowd of visitors that overflowed the park’s terrace, spilling into the terraced area that less than a week ago was filled with water from the park’s pond that over-flowed due to the deluge.
The format of the program remains unchanged over the years that it has taken place at the park that was formed around the spot marking the birthplace of the Prince in 1871.
According to a biography that was included in the program produced by the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Chapter 3, Kuhio was born at Hoai, Kualu in the Koloa District of Kaua’i. Perry indicated that the rocks off to the side of the area where the program was being held marked the spot where the birth hale, or house, stood.
A member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, Perry said Prince Kuhio was responsible for restoring the Royal Order of Kamehameha after the organization ceased to exist in any formal sense following the over-throw of Queen Liliuokalani in 1893.
The Order was first established on Apr. 11, 1865 by Kamehameha V to commemorate his grandfather, Kamehameha the Great, and consisted of dignitaries from the Kingdom of Hawai’i and other nations.
Yesterday’s program included ho’okupu, or gifts, being offered in tribute to Prince Kuhio, and valets from the Royal Order of Kamehameha serving as receivers for the ho’okupu.
Kaua’i Mayor Bryan Baptiste said that in light of the past several weeks, “being Hawaiian is more than the blood that flows through one’s veins. It’s how we live together, come together, and work together.”
One visiting couple from Chicago, Frank and Patty of Pono Kai as they prefer to be known, agreed with the mayor, “We carry the ‘Aloha’ card, and we try to practice aloha until we come back, here.”
The couple had made a special trip to Po’ipu to pick up a flier about Saturday’s events to make sure they didn’t miss the event.
Kumu Palala Harada of Kanuikapono Learning Center public charter school echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“I am proud to be here on behalf of my kupuna before me. I offer mahalo to the organizations for keeping the legacy alive, and I hope to move ahead together as one,” Harada said during one of his group’s many facets of participation in the program.
This made Aunty Janet Kahalekomo smile as the kupuna representing the Hawaiian Civic Clubs had been religiously attending the ceremonies each year, and had two of her grand-children with her as a means of teaching them the significance of the celebration.
Those two, one of whom she explained was not feeling well, were on hand Saturday as Kahalekomo explained that it was Prince Kuhio who started the Hawaiian Civic Clubs in an effort to perpetuate and rehabilitate the Hawaiian people and their culture.
The first club was organized in 1918, and today, has blossomed into 49 distinct organizations spread across Hawai’i and the United States. “We even have one in Alaska,” Kahalekomo said.
Joining her two grandchildren, Brandee Carlos Kahalekomo and Chelise Carlos Kahalekomo, Janet Kahalekomo pointed out a new addition to her entourage: her great grand-child Leila Gray who she said was peeking from behind the chair while watching her present the ho’okupu.
Some of Prince Kuhio’s major accomplishments included a $27 million appropriation for dredging and construction of Pearl Harbor, the establishment of the Makapuu Point Lighthouse, the territorial building, the Hilo wharf, the Hawaii Volcano National Park, the Kilauea National Park, building a hospital at Kalaupapa Settlement for lepers, and the creation of county governments with elected officials.
His greatest contribution to the Hawaiian people was the establishment of the Hawaiian Homes Commission.
Organizations that participated in the ceremonies included the Royal Order of Kamehameha I and Na Wahine Hui O Kamehameha, Aha Hui O Kaahumanu, Hale O Na Alii, the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Alu Like, Inc., Kaua’i Island Center, Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, Hoola Lahui Hawaii, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, Ka Pa Kui A Holo O Kaua’i, and Ka Lahui Hawai’i. Greg Shredder represented Bob Marsh, a neighbor of the park who helped maintain it while he was alive.
Victor Ascuena offered his ho’okupu on behalf of the Grand Hyatt Regency where a day-long celebration in tribute to Prince Kuhio was also taking place.
“It’s all about the Prince, today,” Stella Burgess, the Hyatt’s Hawaiian activities coordinator said.
- Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and email@example.com