Parade, party and a princess

As a princess, she built a reputation unparalleled in Hawaiian history.

So celebrating Princess Kaiulani’s birthday deserves a festival all to itself.

The annual Princess Kaiulani Keiki Fest kicks off at 8 tonight at the Storybook Theatre Garden Stage in Hanapepe Town. The celebration, in its 10th year, highlights the inspiring life of the famous princess, while promoting children’s literacy and education.

“We feel children of today really need to have a sense of Hawaii’s past,” said Mark Jeffers, Storybook Theatre director. “Our children are stronger for knowing” it.

While the festival starts Friday with a documentary film “In the Footsteps of Our Princess,” the majority of event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

What’s a party without a parade?

And what’s a princess celebration without a princess?

The event will feature both, with 16-year-old Waimea High School honor student Mckenna Kamalani Lee Pascua selected to portray Kaiulani.

Kaiulani was revered throughout the world for her intelligence, beauty and determination, a biography on her recounts. The heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii, she earned respect among her fans and peers for denouncing America’s annexation of the islands. Born Oct. 16, 1875, she studied in England and is credited for bringing surfing to Europe. Her death in 1899 from a bout of fever and pneumonia led to the largest attended funeral in Honolulu history.

“I hope that you always continue to learn, work hard, respect your elders, and to always believe in yourself,” Pascua said in a message to Hawaii’s children. “You are what shall keep our culture alive, and I will be so proud to know that Hawaii’s future will be bright and prosperous.”

Saturday’s event will feature local children’s authors reading from their books. Cultural activities, performances by local hula halau, celebrity story readers, a costumed children’s street parade, a garden scavenger hunt and arts, crafts and food booths will also be on hand throughout Hanapepe Town and at Storybook Theatre.

But among all the activities and fun, the focus of the event is literacy. And stories promote just that, as the event is being hosted by the nonprofit, whose mission is bringing stories to children.

“Stories have an effect,” Jeffers said. “They can have a healing effect.”

Info: 335-0712 or director@storybook.org

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