Emalani Festival honors a favorite Kauai Queen

More than 100 years ago, Queen Emma Kalanikaumakaamano Kaleleonalani Naea Rook made a trek across Kauai to Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Kokee.

Her late husband, King Kamehameha IV, had mentioned the place to her before his death and she wanted to see it.

While there, Queen Emma told stories, took in the beautiful views, and watched her friends dance on a large, flat rock.

Michelle Hookano, an associate of the Kokee Museum, said Queen Emma began her 1871 pilgrimage to the meadow alone from Lawai, where she had a small cottage.

“By the time she reached Waimea, where she met her guide for the rest of the trip, she had 100 people with her,” Hookano said. “They followed her and came along with her.”

Now, that spontaneous group’s journey is commemorated through the annual Eo e Emalani I Alaka’I, known as the Emalani Festival, held every second Saturday in October.

“Queen Emma was well-known as a humanitarian,” Hookano said. “She was one of the first monarchs to leave all of her money to the Hawaiian people when she died, most of it going to Queens Hospital that she started with her husband.”

The free event celebrates the queen with music, hula, and a royal procession, as well as a few historic displays, and every year a local woman is chosen by the Hui O Laka Emalani committee to represent Queen Emma.

That means riding into the meadow on horseback, escorted with a lady-in-waiting by a cowboy playing Kaluahi, the queen’s faithful guide.

This year, Nalani Brun was selected to play Queen Emma. Her lady-in-waiting is Melissia Mae Aki Sugai and Harrom Hookano Kaili will be playing Kaluahi.

“I was definitely chosen without my knowledge, but it’s an honor,” Brun said. “I was summoned to the Brick Oven in Kalaheo by Wai Kuapahi, she sits on the Hui O Laka board, and she asked me if I wanted to do it.”

Brun said she’s attended the event “just about every year.” She works with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and manages a grant program with the county for Hui O Laka.

“I attended it first as work, to monitor the project, but always manage to enjoy the solitude of it in between things,” Brun said. “It’s going to be wonderful to really enjoy it.”

Brun said she loves the event because it has reconnected her with family and friends and she is happy to be part of the procession.

“I consider it an absolute honor to represent someone who was such an incredible humanitarian and who considered the health of the Hawaiian people, which is the most important factor to preserving our culture and home,” Brun said. “I, too, have long believed this and feel a true connection with her.”

Emalani Festival is sponsored by Hawaii Tourism Authority and the County of Kauai, and the Kekaha Host Community Benefits Program will match the total amount of funds that are raised.

Funds will go to Hui O Laka for the maintenance of the Kokee Museum.

The event will be held in the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow on Saturday. It begins at 10 a.m. with live music and historical displays.

At noon, Queen Emma will enter the meadow and the rest of the afternoon will be filled with dancing by hula halau from all over Hawaii.

 

Written for The Garden Island Newspaper, published on Oct. 8, 2015.

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