The 41st annual Prince Lot Hula Festival takes place once again at Iolani Palace grounds this weekend, featuring 20 halau from around the Hawaiian isles.
This year marks the second time the festival, dubbed the largest non-competitive hula exhibition in Hawaii, will be held at Iolani Palace after decades at Moanalua Gardens.
“It really continues the hula legacy of the palace,” said festival spokeswoman Pauline Worsham. “There are so many other events that are commemorative or protest events, and this is a celebration. This is a celebration to perpetuate the hula legacy of the palace and to continue the legacy of kumu hula to a new generation of kumu hula.”
The festival’s theme this year is “Ka Hanohano o Kamehameha,” meaning “The Glory of Kamehameha,” and renowned kumu hula from Hawaii island are being honored.
The festival, presented by the Moanalua Gardens Foundation, opens with a ceremony Saturday morning led by the Royal Order of Kamehameha, followed by a presentation of the prestigious Malia Kau Award to sisters Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele and Nalani Kanaka‘ole, kumu hula of the renowned Halau o Kekuhi from Hawaii island.
The sisters, also founders of the Ka ‘Aha Hula ‘o Halauaola worldwide conference that just concluded in Hilo last month, are being honored for their contributions to perpetuating Hawaii’s hula traditions and culture over their lifetimes.
Master chanter Kalena Silva has been selected for the Namakahelu Oli Award, which will be presented Sunday morning. Silva is being recognized for his contributions to the preservation of the ancient art form and for his extensive knowledge and skill in chanting.
Renowned halau from Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii island are performing this year, representing both old and new generations.
Na Pualei o Likolehua under the direction of kumu hula Niuli‘i Heine performs Saturday, and Halau Hula ‘O Hokulani led by the late kumu Hokulani De Rego’s three daughters, Leinani Lauaki, Kehaulani Kawai and Leonani Naho‘oikaika, performs Sunday.
Kumu hula Kamaka Kukona of Maui is making a debut at the festival Sunday with his Halau o Ka Hanu Lehua, after having placed fourth in this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival.
Iolani Palace will serve as a backdrop this year instead of the Coronation Pavilion, according to Worsham, with the stage moved beneath a tree to provide shade for dancers.
Besides food vendors, the festival will also offer cultural demonstrations and a Hawaiian-themed craft fair, and cultural demonstrations. Visitors are welcome to bring low beach chairs and mats. Admission to the festival is free, although a button donation is welcome. Several parking options are available.
Admission to the first floor of Iolani Palace will be free on Saturday and Sunday.
For nearly 40 years the Moanalua Gardens Foundation held the festival at Moanalua Gardens, a privately owned park, but moved last summer because it could not afford a newly proposed fee by its owner. Iolani Palace worked out well as a venue last year, according to Worsham, and the festival hopes to remain there for the foreseeable future.