KAWAIHAE — Hayden Konanui-Tucker wasn’t planning to perform hula at the 46th annual Ho‘oku‘ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival on Saturday.
But when the 14-year-old heard the strummed notes of “Kaulana Na Pua,” he felt it, he said, and went with it.
“When I dance, the song takes over me,” he said. “And I just go with the beat and go with the flow.”
Konanui-Tucker performed along with two songs at the festival, held Saturday at Pu‘ukohola Heiau National Historic Site.
The first song, “Kaulana Na Pua,” is about the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The second, “Holoholo Ka‘a,” is “about just driving to the beach, having fun with your friends,” Konanui-Tucker said. And after each hula before the crowd, audience members — many of them decades his senior — clapped and cheered the teenager’s abilities.
The annual Ho‘oku‘ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival celebrates the anniversary of the area’s establishment as a National Historic Site, said chief of interpretation Ben Saldua, and is an opportunity for visitors and residents to learn about and engage with Hawaii’s history and culture.
The event features a wide array of demonstrations, including kapa pounding, wood carving, nose flutes and tattoos.
Visitors can also try their hand at crafts, such as lei, lauhala bracelets and coconut baskets among others.
“We ask visitors: at least make one craft before leaving,” said Saldua. “And this is how we can help to perpetuate the culture of Hawaii.”
Engaging with those crafts and the local artisans providing the demonstrations, he said, helps people to learn the culture of Hawaii and also come away with a souvenir into which they have invested their own time and effort.
“And there’s a lot of people that make it,” Saldua said, “and they feel proud of what they have made instead of buying it.”
Seeing that, he said, lets him know what a success the festival is.
“It makes me feel good seeing people enjoy making things,” he said. “And by seeing this, I know the whole event is a success.”
Helicopter pilots Beau Brown and Chris Powell said they’re big supporters of the park and come regularly to learn what they can about the culture of the area.
That knowledge they gather, Powell said, is then something that they can share with their own customers.
Brown said Pu‘ukohola Heiau National Historic Site is also “a great location to experience some of the more realistic cultural events that are here on the island.”
Konanui-Tucker also noted the importance festivals like these have for local residents.
“Being at these kind of events is really good for me,” he said. “And I like it, because it just represents how we as a kanaka are bringing back the culture.”
His mother, Niki Konanui, said whenever her son wants to attend a festival like this one, she takes him.
Cultural festivals like this, she said, are particularly important for those who grew up or are growing up here.
“They’ve got to know where they’re from,” she said. “We’re from here, generations. It’s only us. There’s nobody else like us.”