HANAPEPE — After performing her solo hula, Sami Lin Kihenepualehuamakanoe Ofisa watched as the taiko drummers performed. She looked to her mother, Buffy, and said “I wish I could do that.”
For Ofisa, 10, who portrayed Princess Victoria Ka’iulani at the 2016 Kaiulani Keiki Fest Saturday in Hanapepe, performing as a taiko drummer was the only thing she didn’t have to do that day.
“I was really excited,” Ofisa said while taking a break before reading a story to the other keiki in attendance. “But I was also very nervous, especially when I had to do my solo. I think I did good, though, but everyone keeps saying that I did good so I don’t know what they’re really thinking.”
Among the crowd of about 40 who helped celebrate Princess Ka’iulani 141st birthday — which is actually today — was Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who came with his family to honor the memory of the princess while also celebrating Hawaiian history.
“I’m just happy to be here with everyone and be here to honor this event,” Carvalho said. “We need to teach our keiki what’s happening here. Educating our keiki, embracing our hula and never forgetting where we come from is what these events are all about.”
Ofisa rode into the festival in style, riding her Aunty Lorna’s horse, Skyboy. It was a moment Ofisa would never forget, being embraced by her community — especially considering she only learned how to ride a horse on Wednesday.
“My favorite part was walking in with Skyboy,” Ofisa said. “It was fun because he’s so tall, but so well-behaved.”
Along with dancing the hula, leading the storytelling session and being honored during a parade, Ofisa kept the memory of the princess alive. Mauliola Cook, the Mistress of Ceremony and Hawaiian Studies teacher, Ofisa portrayed Princess Ka’iulani beautifully.
“(Ofisa) is a beautiful girl and is doing a wonderful job,” Cook said. “I think it’s important for us to keep the memory our alii alive, to bring more history to life and to bring our communities together. A little festival like this in a little town like Hanapepe, we can bring everyone together to celebrate Hawaiian history.”