Quote Unquote: Meet the Aloha Festivals Floral Parade's Pā‘ū Rider
Representing the island of Kaho‘olawe, Faith Kalamau marks her third year participating as a pā‘ū princess in the annual Waikīkī parade.
When it comes to parade outfits for pā‘ū riders, it’s all about the details. A symbol of Hawaiian elegance, these momilani shells are a wedding tradition for the Kelly ‘ohana of Ni‘ihau and were lent to pā‘ū princess Faith Kalamau to wear as she rode horseback down Kalākaua Avenue in the 2016 Aloha Festivals Floral Parade. “When you know what it took for someone to pick, clean, sort and sew the shells, you see each lei with a deeper understanding and appreciation,” Kalamau says. “There’s always some kind of heartfelt story behind what we’re wearing.”
Photos: Aaron K. Yoshino
Faith Kalamau, mother of three, works at the Lili‘uokalani Trust in Kāne‘ohe during the day and Papakōlea Community Center at night. Yet every fall, Kalamau, 45, finds the time to ride pā‘ū (originally, the skirt worn by female horseback riders, now also used to describe the riders themselves) in the Aloha Festivals Floral Parade.
Growing up I always watched the Aloha Festivals and Kamehameha parades. I always thought as a little girl, “Hoo, the ladies look so beautiful, and the different colors and the flowers.” I fell in love with it, and that’s why I continue to ride pā‘ū.
Lately a lot of princesses who rode for so many years took a break. It is hard work, a lot of money and a lot of labor.
We start preparing as early as February with fundraisers. Practices can start as early as February, but because this is our third year and we’re used to the horses we ride, we’re starting practices in late June.
I think it’s very important to know the island you’re riding for and the history behind it. Every year, I ask my friend (Kuahiwi Moniz, the Hawaiian cultural resource manager at Kualoa Ranch) to come and give mo‘olelo about the island that we’re representing.
Safety is key. We did have an incident where we were practicing, and the horse just fell down. We do have a lead escort, so if something like that should ever happen, it is the lead escort’s responsibility to get off his horse and make sure that rider is OK.
The first year I had one mother-of-pearl shell on my horse lei that represented me. Last year I had three that represented my three kids. So everything has a meaning to it.
You gotta represent yourself well because everyone is taking pictures. Especially in Waikīkī, you got people [from] all over the world. They’re going to take a picture of you and bring you home with them, wherever they came from.
Having that pā‘ū wrapped around your waist can be very uncomfortable because they wrap it tight using six kukui nuts. You got to suck it in, and they squeeze you tight so it doesn’t pop out.
We go all over the island to pick [flowers]. One year I sent one of my friends to Hawai‘i Island to go pick.
Going down the road riding the horse, smiling, presenting yourself and the island, as well as your pā‘ū unit with dignity—that’s the best part.
Watch Kalākaua Avenue come alive with the Aloha Festivals’ 72nd Annual Floral Parade on Saturday, Sept. 29. alohafestivals.com