Historic Kailua Village really knows how to throw a Christmas party! Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, the community kicks off Kailua Kalikimaka, a monthlong celebration sponsored by the Kailua Village Business Improvement District.
Now in its third year, the event fills the seaside town with holiday cheer. Windows are festooned with tinsel and wreaths; restaurants offer ono specials; and thousands of spectators line the streets to watch a parade complete with floats, bands, choral groups and Santa.
December’s Kokua Kailua Village Stroll, a much-anticipated part of Kailua Kalikimaka, will reflect the festive mood of the season. As with the other monthly strolls, a quarter-mile of Alii Drive, the town’s main thoroughfare, will be closed to vehicular traffic for five hours.
Along this seaside mall, pedestrians can watch art demonstrations; enjoy Hawaiian music, a hula performance and a concert by award-winning songstress Amy Hanaialii Gilliom; take advantage of store discounts; and peruse the wares of additional merchants who set up shop on the asphalt.
» Place: Historic Kailua Village, Big Island
Another highlight of Kailua Kalikimaka is the Kona Christmas Parade presented by the Rotary Club of Kona. Themed "Na Mele o Kalikimaka: The Songs of Christmas," this year’s 26th annual parade will feature 65 entries, 1,600 participants and announcers providing live commentary at nine points along the 1.5-mile route.
The parade is led every year by a grand marshal who is recognized for his or her community service. Past honorees include Fanny Au Hoy, docent coordinator of Hulihee Palace; Gloria Juan-Tapaatoutai, a music teacher at Kealakehe Intermediate School; and the Rev. Henry Boshard, former pastor of Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian church in Hawaii.
This year’s grand marshals are 40 members of the Kanuha family, who trace their lineage to Chief Umi-a-Liloa, ruler of the Big Island from 1510 to 1525. The six siblings who are the elders of the clan grew up in a house next to Mokuaikaua Church. Like their forebears, they have volunteered countless hours to youth, educational and cultural preservation activities in the community.
The establishment of KVBID in 2007 has strengthened the town’s identity, cohesiveness and vision. "KVBID’s initiatives, including Kailua Kalikimaka, encourage residents and visitors to shop, dine and buy local," said Eric von Platen Luder, the organization’s president. "They support our mission, which is to maintain Kailua Village as a model sustainable community to live, work and play."
According to von Platen Luder, Kailua in the District of Kona is the proper reference for the town, so its name should be spelled Kailua, Kona, not Kailua-Kona as it appears in most guidebooks. KVBID advocates the use of the moniker Historic Kailua Village for practical as well as promotional reasons.
"It helps distinguish our town from Kailua on Oahu," von Platen Luder said. "It also helps build awareness of our significant historical sites, including Mokuaikaua Church, Hulihee Palace and Ahuena Heiau."
After unifying the Hawaiian kingdom in 1810, King Kamehameha I returned to Kailua, Kona, to rule from Kamakahonu, his residence beside Ahuena Heiau. This is where he died in May 1819, where the kapu system was abolished six months later and where, in April 1820, Christian missionaries first came ashore in Hawaii.
"Historic Kailua Village is one of only a few places in the islands where visitors can find great shopping, dining, ocean activities, history and culture — all the elements of a memorable Hawaiian vacation — on a short walk," von Platen Luder said. "We like to say it’s Christmas here year-round because you can experience aloha here every day, everywhere."
2011 STROLLS AND CONCERTS
The schedule of monthly Kokua Kailua Village Strolls and Hulihee Palace Concerts subject to change. The names listed after the dates are the concerts’ honorees.
» Jan. 16: King Kamehameha II and Aunty Iolani Luahine
Historic Kailua Village Walking Tour
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.