HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This weekend is a busy one around downtown Honolulu and Waikiki with events honoring Hawaii's first king and a festival celebrating the relationship between Hawaii and Japan.
Thousands of people jammed Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki for the Pan-Pacific Festival Ho'olaule'a block party Friday night. The 34th annual festival started as a promotion for Japanese tourists to visit Hawaii, but has since expanded its focus to other countries. However, it is still heavily promoted in Japan, and has rebounded since the deadly tsunami there two years ago.
"Even in 2011, you know, with the unfortunate disaster that happened over there, there was still a contingent that came over, and Hawaii was very welcoming to them, and we always will be. And it just continued to grow," said Pali Kaaihue, a local musician who spends a lot of time in Japan and is also on the festival's advisory board.
The block party also drew visitors from other places, checking out the music, the food and the festivities.
"I wish everybody had a sign where they're from, because there's so many different places represented," said Charlie Hess, a first-time visitor from Chicago. "Very, very unique."
Earlier in the day, the statue of King Kamehameha I fronting Aliiolani Hale was draped in lei ahead of Tuesday's state holiday that honors him. Dozens of people turned out for the lei draping, which included the presentation of lei and gifts from Hawaiian royal societies and civic groups.
While the statue was being draped in lei, others were preparing floats for the 97th annual floral parade, scheduled for Saturday.
"We have over 50 units in the parade, over a hundred horses, floats, decorated vehicles, marching bands," said parade chairman Kainoa Daines. "There's a lot of moving parts, so today is really a just a chance to get everybody in order, everybody in place."
Friday was also a chance for Oahu residents to plan accordingly because the events will involve road closures and traffic delays.
The Kamehameha Floral Parade will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at King and Richards Streets, fronting Iolani Palace. It will head down King Street, turn right onto Punchbowl Street and then left on Ala Moana Boulevard, and finally right on Kalakaua Avenue before ending at Kapiolani Park. A ho'olaule'a will be held at 11 a.m. on the grounds of Iolani Palace. Trolleys will run between the palace and Waikiki during the event.
Kalakaua Avenue will be closed from Saratoga Road to Kapahulu Avenue Sunday at 4:30 p.m. for the Pan-Pacific Festival Parade, which will begin at 5 p.m.