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Who Loves Liliha?


There's nothing like a little self-affirmation to boost a town's stock. For 12 years now, Kailua has thrown an annual party celebrating its own residents and businesses. Event organizers say the shindig has been instrumental in Kailua's revitalization.

Corinne Ching, 27th District representative, thinks the same thing could work in her neighborhood. She's organizing the first ever "I Love Liliha" Festival this month, patterned on the Kailua event that has been so successful on the other side of the Pali.

Photos: Michael Keany

"It's easy to love Kailua; it's another thing to love Liliha," Ching says. "Liliha conjures up, for most kama'äina, the Bronx, a place you don't go late at night. Really, it doesn't have to be that way. Liliha is very interesting, and it just needs a sense of its own identity."

Part of the problem is that, unlike Kailua, which is relatively distinct, geographically speaking, Liliha blends into the surrounding urban neighborhoods, making it tricky to define exactly. Ching favors a generous, cultural interpretation of Liliha's borders, which includes Nu'uanu, Pu'unui, 'Älewa Heights and Kapälama, and hopes that the festival will get residents and local business out on the street and talking to each other. "We want to create a sense of township in Liliha that has not existed in most people's lifetimes," Ching says.

From left: Liliha Street, Liliha Bakery cocoa puffs and Masu’s Massive Plate Lunch.

To that end, local historians will be on hand, recounting old stories and facts about Liliha that even residents may not know. Liliha, for example, was named for a real woman, a governor of O'ahu in the early 19th century, who clashed with Queen Ka'ahumanu and was exiled to Lahaina, Maui. The governorship was turned over to Ka'ahumanu's brother Kuakini, whose name also lives on as a street and a medical center in Liliha.

Kuakini Medical Center and other area hospitals will be participating with a health fair, and schools will be out promoting local Parent/Teacher/Student associations.

"I Love Liliha" won't be all hospitals and history. As anyone who's tackled a Masu's Massive Plate Lunch could attest, the quickest route to the heart is through the stomach, and an abundance of local food favorites will show off Liliha's sweetheart status. This is, after all, home to the inimitable Liliha Bakery cocoa puffs and the original L&L Drive-In, not to mention the birthplace of saimin.

With any luck, all the food, music and fun will translate to a long-term love affair, and the festival will become an annual event. "I think it's going to bring a sense of history and pride to this district. People will start to flock here," Ching says. "I think Liliha will be cool, because it already is cool, it just doesn't know it."

“I Love Liliha” Festival

Sat, Aug. 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lanakila Elementary School. For more information, call event organizer Amy Hammond at 234-0404.

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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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