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These Volunteers are Sewing 40-Foot Plumeria Lei for Kamehameha Day

Members of Hula Hālau Ka Liko O Ka Palai string plumeria flowers to honor King Kamehameha.


Lei making

Photos: David Croxford


The smell of plumeria flowers wafts through the air in the Mission Memorial Building the afternoon before the King Kamehameha Statue Lei Draping Ceremony. Members of Hula Hālau Ka Liko O Ka Palai sit at a white table piled with yellow and red flowers. The group of mostly women hand-sews each individual yellow flower onto a long lei-making needle while kumu Ainsley K. Halemanu carefully sews together the red flowers with ti leaf accents.


The lei pattern they are sewing is called “poe poe,” which means, instead of sewing each flower on the needle front to back, the flowers are sewed in a circular rotation, making the lei thicker and more lush. The yellow and red flowers are meant to mimic the colors of the ‘ahu‘ula, the feather cloaks worn by the highest ali‘i, including King Kamehameha I.


Pink plumeria


“When you make the lei, you are giving from yourself,” says Kanoe Takitaki-Puahi, event coordinator at the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts.


Here is what you need to know about the preparations, by the numbers:

  • 5,000: plumeria flowers that were shipped from Moloka‘i and picked off plumeria trees on O‘ahu earlier this morning

  • 40 feet: the length of the lei

  • 7: hours to sew the lei

  • 15: volunteers sewing the lei

  • 3: the number of days the lei stays on the statue before the decaying flowers begin to damage the metal


Mayor Kirk Caldwell

Mayor Kirk Caldwell joined in on the lei making today.


This is just a glimpse at the lei making for The City and County of Honolulu, one of the many lei being sewed for tomorrow’s ceremony. The lei will be wrapped in ti leaves and stored inside the building overnight before the King Kamehameha Statue Lei Draping Ceremony will be held on Friday, June 9 at 3 p.m. at the Statue of King Kamehameha I at Aliʻiolani Hale.


The King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade will be held on Saturday, June 10, at 9 a.m. at ‘Iolani Palace.


Kumu Ainsley Helmanu’s Hula Hālau Ka Liko O Ka Palai performs every Tuesday from 6:30—7:30 p.m. at the Kūhiō Beach Hula Mound.


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Honolulu Magazine January 2018
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