Queen’s song contest standing room only

LIHUE — People wondering what the wooden box was for did not have long to wait Tuesday during the Eo E Lili‘u children and youth music competition.

Kamaha‘o Haumea Thronas, garbed in red palaka and adorned with pakalana lei to set him apart from the Kawaikini Public Charter School kindergarten through grade 5 musical group, deftly stepped onto the raised platform and did his magic, much to the delight of the turn-away crowd at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

The performance of the keiki song leader withstood the challenge of four competing schools to earn Kawaikini top honors in the elementary mele and huinanui, or overall honor. Lilinoe Kuhaulua-Leong earned the ha‘i‘olelo, or speech presentation, and the group from the school adjacent to Kauai Community College went on to take top honors in the ‘Olelo Hawai‘i elementary-school category of the Kauai Mokihana Festival competition.

“I can’t believe it,” said Tita Kuhaulua, Lilinoe’s mother. “Kamaha‘o is normally a really shy boy. But he shone today. He might go on to become a song leader at Kamehameha Schools one day.”

On the high school side of the stage, Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha controlled the competition, taking top honors in the mele division for grades 6 to 12, with Kekoa Kanahele, the group’s speaker, taking Ha‘i‘olelo honors for the same grade group, and receiving a lei pupu created by a Ni‘ihau ohana, and a hi‘ieke, or woven cloak, for her efforts.

Eo E Lili‘u, sponsored by the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center, is a children and youth music competition which allows students in Hawaiian immersion schools to compete musically by grades with songs in the Hawaiian language.

Because the event honors Queen Lili‘uokalani, groups performed two numbers — one to honor the queen, and another about the cultures of Hawaii, this year’s theme for the Kauai Mokihana Festival, the week-long celebration of Hawaiiana and the cultures of Hawaii which started Sunday with a church service at the Kapaa First Hawaiian Church, founded by Queen Deborah Kapule in 1879.

For its winning entry, Kawaikini’s elementary-school students “Kehaulani” to honor Queen Lili‘uokalani, and “He Lei Mau Oia” for the cultures of Hawaii.

Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha selected “He Pule” to honor the queen, and “Mele La‘i” for the cultures of Hawaii, the selections presented by Kanahele, who had to be helped onto the stage from her crutches, the long holoku effectively masking her injury.

Nathan Kalama, founder of the Kauai Mokihana Festival, was pleased with the inclusion of St. Catherine School in this year’s Eo E Lili‘u.

“I’ve always wanted groups and schools beyond the Hawaiian immersion schools to participate in this event,” Kalama said. “This year is a first as we welcome St. Catherine’s, who is participating in both the children (grades kingdergarten through 5) and youth (grades 6 to 12) divisions.”

Other events in the week-long Kauai Mokihana Festival include Ka Mea ‘Ai Pono — Ethnic Healthy Living, a free presentation by Sharon DelaPena, dietician, who believes that by making small dietary and lifestyle changes, people can achieve their overall nutrition goals and be able to maintain those habits for life. The event starts at 6:30 tonight at the Ho‘ola Lahui Fitness Center in Lihue.

Vendors will be present and ethnic demonstrations will take place at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall from Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. Admission is free.

The hula competition featuring solo and groups starts at 6 p.m. Thursday with kahiko, or ancient hula, taking the stage. Friday at 6 p.m. the hula switches to ‘auana, or contemporary hula, for children, solo and group. Finals for the hula competitions start at noon Saturday.

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