Reliving the elegance of old Hawaii: Waimea Hawaiian Homesteaders Association’s 5th Annual Kuhio Ball

  • Melanie Mauru, singer Kainani Kahaunaele and Leila Ryusaki show off their gowns at last year’s Kuhio Ball. WHHA/Special to West Hawaii Today
    Melanie Mauru, singer Kainani Kahaunaele and Leila Ryusaki show off their gowns at last year’s Kuhio Ball. WHHA/Special to West Hawaii Today
  • Sandy Decker, Fred Kachola and Alex Penovaroff enjoy last year’s event. WHHA/Special to West Hawaii Today
    Sandy Decker, Fred Kachola and Alex Penovaroff enjoy last year’s event. WHHA/Special to West Hawaii Today

WAIMEA — The Waimea Hawaiian Homesteaders Association’s fifth Annual Kuhio Ball will take place March 26 from 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at Pukalani Stables. The event is held in honor of Prince Kuhio Kalanianaole, whose love for the land and the Hawaiian people inspired him to spearhead the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921.

The ball is a showcase for the holoku, a long-sleeved, yoked, flowing dress worn by Hawaiian royalty after the arrival of the missionaries in 1820, which is an icon for a historic turning point in Hawaiian history. When Hiram Bingham and his entourage arrived in Kawaihae on the American brig, Thaddeus, they were greeted among others by King Kamehameha’s widows, Kalakua and Namahana.

Impressed by the attire of the missionary wives, and in possession of fabric gleaned from the sandalwood trade, Kalakua insisted that they sew dresses for her and Namahana. During the journey from Kawaihae to Kailua-Kona, the missionary wives got busy sewing.

When Kalakua and Namahana came ashore in Kailua-Kona to trumpeting conch shells and chanting, Kalakua was dressed in a splendorous white cambric dress and cap. The holoku became known as a symbol of Hawaiian royalty and the holoku ball a way to display their beauty and elegance.

King Kalakaua, friend and classmate of Samuel Parker, was a regular visitor to Mana, where some of the first holoku balls were held.

“The balls started in Waimea during Kalakaua’s time. The royal families started coming because there were royal families here. They had these balls in Mana by the horse corrals,” said WHHA president Micah Komohoali’i.

Of course, everyone traveled to the ball on horseback, which is how the pa’u came about.

“People would ride to the ball on their horses, wrapped in 12 yards of fabric. That was the beginning of pau riding. They invented the pau to keep their clothes from getting dirty,” said Komohoali’i.

He remembers the balls, which continued until the late 1980s and then stopped.

“I remember my grandmother dressing to go to the ball,” said Komohoali’i.

When he became president of WHHA, Komohoali’i wondered, “What happened to all of our balls we used to have? I remember when I was young, I couldn’t go. But I want to go to it now.”

In the previous four years the ball has been held at various locations such as Kuhio Hall, Hapuna and Mauna Kea, but the plan is to move the ball to a new historic location each year.

“Parker Ranch had all these balls and Anna Perry Fiske had all these balls, so why not hold up the tradition? It’s fitting that it should be in historic sites of our own town. Next year, we hope to take it to Anna Ranch and maybe Richard Smart’s home another year,” said Komohoali’i.

This year’s ball will be Paniolo Holoku.

“It’s a time when the uncles can wear all their cowboy boots, their buckles, their palaka shirts. And the women can dress Kentucky Derby style in big hats and shorter dresses,” Komohoali’i said.

The association also hopes to begin the ball with a parade from Church Row to the stables.

“Families can come dressed in holoku and we will bring the pa’u fabric and wrap them. We need to show our community what the pa’u is about,” he said.

Starting with brunch, there will be live music and a silent auction.

“I’m hoping to get Na Paniolo, the Parker paniolo musicians, to play for us,” said Komohoali’i.

There will also be lucky number drawings for smaller donated items and a holoku parade and costume contest with four categories: best costume for three different historic periods and best-dressed couple. Each winner will receive a koa bowl.

In honor of their benefactor, Prince Kuhio, the WHHA will be using proceeds of the event to support the future of Hawaii’s youth by providing college scholarships.

“Prince Kuhio did it and we can do it too. We have to do it for Prince Kuhio. He’s the one that started the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act,” said Komoali’i.

The cost for the event is $30 per person.

Tickets and info: Micah Komohoali’i at 960-1900 or email micahkamohoalii@gmail.com

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