Locals, visitors pay respects on King Kamehameha Day

Katie Robinson
Katie Robinson
Clint and Miryam Gerdine
Clint and Miryam Gerdine
Renee Fujiyama
Renee Fujiyama
Shayne Kalani Wills
Shayne Kalani Wills

By Leland Kim - bio | email

DOWNTOWN HONOLULU (KHNL) - King Kamehameha Day is a day off for most people in Hawaii, but it's also a time to reflect on the first ruler of the Hawaiian Islands.

All day long Thursday, people came to pay their respects and get their pictures taken in front of the statue. Almost two centuries after he established the kingdom of Hawaii, King Kamehameha's impact is still felt today.

It's a reception fit for a king. Locals and visitors alike gather in front of the King Kamehameha statue to honor a ruler who unified the Hawaiian Islands.

"I think just that he was such a great inspiration to all the people and how he united cultures and kept cultures going," said Katie Robinson, an upcoming senior at Punahou School.

"I think it's great you're able to celebrate a day like this and bring so many people together for a common goal and unify them," said Clint and Miryam Gerdine, newlyweds who are visiting from Washington, D.C.

It's an especially significant day for native Hawaiians.

"As a student of Kamehameha, it makes me proud to see someone I can look up to, and see that someone that can inspire me to be a leader just as he was," said Shayne Kalani Wills, an upcoming senior at Kamehameha Schools.

Kamehameha the Great conquered the islands of Maui, Moloka'i, and O'ahu. Kaua'i and Ni'ihau eventually joined his unified kingdom in 1810.

Two hundred years later, his influence can still be felt.

"I hope a lot of people come and honor him and take pictures so they can remember," said Renee Fujiyama, a Kailua resident.

They also show their respects by bringing flowers and lei.

Typically the statue is draped with a huge lei on this holiday, but this year that's going to take place the day after.

"I'm a little sad it's not on there today, because that's why I wanted to take pictures of him," said Fijiyama.

Still, the tremendous interest surrounding the king shows the resurgence of Hawaiian culture.

"Now with newer generations and leaders that promote the use of the Hawaiian culture and language, we see kind of a renaissance or re-bounce of cultural practices that were done long ago," said Wills.

And that message of coming together and honoring one's past is one that anyone can relate to.

"We see today with President Obama from this area, and we see that any person no matter their race, creed, culture, national origin, can be whatever they want to be in the states here," said Clint Gerdine.

The lei draping ceremony will take place in front of the King Kamehameha statue Friday at 3 pm, complete with speakers and hula halau. And the King Kamehameha Day parade is on Saturday in Waikiki.