KOKEE — Driving up the road into Waimea Canyon on Saturday, Pattye Wright pictured what it must have been like for Queen Emalani, who rode horseback across the treacherous terrain.
“Can you imagine coming all this way — and there were some people who tried to discourage her, but she did it anyway — and in that Victorian era dress?” Wright asked. “She was an adventurous woman.”
The queen’s strength and independence are two of the qualities that resonate with Wright, who was attending Saturday’s 28th annual Eo e Emalani i Alaka‘i festival from Oahu.
“I’ve been coming here to this festival for many years and I love this because this spot is for sharing and for love, it’s not for competition,” Wright said. “It’s about love and support and sharing in hula.”
Wright was one of several hundred people who showed up for the Emalani Festival, which celebrates her 1871 journey to the Kokee uplands and Kilohana vista.
“Queen Emma was a resilient woman, with considerable skills and talents, a great leader of her people,” said Hui o Laka Trustee Wai Kuapahi, who portrayed the queen at the 2009 festival, in a news release. It was a day of dancing, food, chants, music and talking story in Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Kokee State Park, and after a little more than an hour of music, Norman Hookano played the role of Kaluahi, the guide, in leading Yvonne Hosaka, acting as Queen Emalani, and Kaleiu‘i Hosaka, as her lady-in-waiting, into the meadow.
As the party made their way through the meadow, the crowd gathered and began to welcome the queen and her entourage with chants. Kaluahi helped both women from their horses and escorted them to seats of honor at the edge of the clearing.
The rest of the afternoon was filed with various performances and stories as friends and family mingled together, seeking shade and congregating under umbrellas to get out of the sun.
“I just love coming out here,” said Jonna Yates, who walked across the street from Camp Sloggett. “It’s a really special event and I am so close by.”
Yates has danced at the festival several times, but chose to sit this year out. She was excited to see her friends perform in the meadow instead, and enjoyed the show in the company of her dog, Kai Kea.
Attending the Emalani Festival was a big day for the Brown family from Kilauea, who brought their youngest daughter, Ilihia, to Kokee for the first time on Saturday, in celebration of her one-month birthday.
The festival was co-sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the County of Kauai and commemorates the resilience of Queen Emma and the love of her people.
“In the Native Hawaiian culture, we look to our alii (chiefs) as pillars of society who lived, basically, to serve their people. Queen Emma, wife of King Kamehameha IV, was no exception,” said Nalani Brun, program administration officer for the county Office of Economic Development. “She regularly focused her efforts on the health and education of her people. The Eo E Emalani Festival commemorates a time when she traveled through Alakai while trying to recover from the death of her ohana.”