HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hula, chanting, and remembering Hawaii's history were on the agenda Tuesday as hundreds turned out at Thomas Square for the unveiling of a statue of King Kamehameha III.
"Today marks the 175th commemoration of La Hoihoi Ea Sovereignty Restoration day which occurred right here," said Misty Kelai, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts.
The park is where the Hawaiian Kingdom was handed back to King Kamehameha III from the British after five months of occupation.
King Kamehameha III ruled for 29 years. And in that time, he proclaimed the islands' first constitution and founded Honolulu's fire department.
Members of HFD's honor guard, dressed in uniforms from the 1850s, stood watch over the statue at Tuesday's ceremony.
The 12-foot bronze statue, which was outfitted with lei as part of the ceremony, cost the city $250,000.
"Some say why $250,000 for a statue of Kamehamaha III?" said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. "Because art is about romance and life and poetry. It's about the stuff that makes us who we are and the stories that we tell."
The statue previously stirred up controversy for its hefty price tag.
"His arm is raised to the flag. The Hawaiian flag. The only flag that will fly here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, forever," Caldwell said.
The city has so far spent nearly $3 million to upgrade Thomas Square.