King Kamehameha V established the holiday by royal decree in 1871 to honor his grandfather,
Kamehameha the Great, with the first observance taking place the next year.
Today on Oahu, for example, the celebration started the evening before June 11, which fell on a
Wednesday this year, with the traditional draping of the King Kamehameha statue in front of Aliiolani
Hale (now the Hawaii State Supreme Court Building, but popularly recognized as the offices of the
current popular TV series Hawaii Five-O) and facing Iolani Palace. Honolulu Firefighters used a
ladder-truck to place the 20-foot-plus plumeria leis around the statue. This statue is always a popular
visitor attraction, but never more so when it’s covered with the beautiful leis.
Did you know there are actually three other variations of the heroic-sized King Kamehameha statue:
• The original bronze casting of the statue was lost at sea en route to Hawaii near Cape Horn, but was
later recovered and now stands in Kapaau on the Big Island, near the birthplace of the future king.
• The third statue was unveiled in National Statuary Hall in Washington in 1969 (but was moved to
Emancipation Hall in 2008).
• Another copy of the statue was recently erected in Wailoa State Park in Hilo.
In addition to the lei draping ceremonies, which occur on each of the statues, the celebration also
includes floral parades, concerts and other activities — all special observances for the man who
ushered the Kingdom of Hawaii into the western world
King Kamehameha the Great