The pa‘u rider lives on; museum exhibit on with COVID-19 protocols

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Lori Wong reigned over the 2019 King Kamehameha Day Parade, the last to be held due to COVID-19, and is featured along with the many people who assumed roles associated with the popular mounted units of the parade.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Pa‘u riders led by the pa‘u queen are traditional components of the annual King Kamehameha Day parade and festivities, here on display at the Kaua‘i Museum on Rice Street in Lihu‘e.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The cape and regalia of a pa‘u queen is at left, while at right is the regalia of an island princess, the one depicted representing Lana‘i, at the “Pa‘u: A Hawaiian Tradition” exhibit at the Kaua‘i Museum on Rice Street in Lihu‘e.

LIHU‘E — Pa‘u riders have always been integral to regal parades such as the King Kamehameha Day celebration, Aloha Week celebration and more.

The appearance of the COVID-19 changed all of that when, in 2020, there was no parade or large-gathering ho‘olaule‘a. The virus continues to hover over the island, and the health and safety rules preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus resulted in the Kamehameha Day celebration not having a parade again this year.

“Next year, it’ll be the 150th anniversary of the King Kamehameha celebrations,” said Lyah Kama-Drake, the Kaua‘i Museum educational outreach director.

“The celebration should be big. Hopefully, we’ll have control over COVID-19 by then. But because it’s Kamehameha Day, it is so appropriate that we present the ‘Pau: A Hawaiian Tradition’ exhibit, so people can be reminded of the parade and the pa‘u riders who are integral parts of the parade.”

The exhibit that also recounts the experiences of 2019 Pa‘u Queen Lori Wong is the first major exhibit to open in the new exhibit hall that is nearing completion.

“You just need to climb the stairs,” Kama-Drake said. “The exhibit is available for viewing now. There needs to be a Kaua‘i Museum representative present during the tour, so reservations to view the exhibit are very highly recommended. We are also following the COVID-19 protocol of wearing face masks and the group being limited to maximum of 10 people.”

Pa‘u riders in parades are almost always accompanied by an entourage that includes a page announcing the pa‘u princess, and ladies in waiting, as well as accompanying paniolo escorts, all on decorated horseback.

“Pa‘u riders have their own protocol as well,” said Kama-Drake, who also experienced being a p‘u rider. “It’s supposed to hurt (when draped properly), and you have to hold your own kukui nuts when they wrap you. Once you’re wrapped, you’re not supposed to go around talking to everyone — you can’t even eat.”

The story of the pa‘u wrappers is a page from the exhibit that chronicles some of the recent pa‘u riders of Kaua‘i and the support staff that go with the riders.

Reservations for viewing the exhibit can be made by calling the Kaua‘i Museum at 808-245-6931.

The Kaua‘i Museum is currently operating under special hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is Monday through Thursday for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The museum is closed on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and special holidays such as Kamehameha Day this Friday.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or

  1. I saw Vampire once June 9, 2021 6:04 am Reply

    What would the Hawaiians be doing if they were in the old days and in a pandemic? Not know it is a pandemic. 1989 copyright, 18% Hawaiians left in US. Book. In Library.

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