To Live Like These Kings

The men representing ali‘i at this weekend’s King’s Celebration and Parade are (from left): Russ Keali‘i Mahuiki-Cummings as King Kamehameha (and who will portray King Kaumuali‘i during the parade), Thomas Keolaikepapalua Lindsey Jr. as King Manokalanipo, and Mauna Kea Trask as King Kaumuali‘i (and who will portray King Kamehameha during the parade).

Goosebumps will be a given for attendees of the 2017 King’s Celebration and Parade, held Saturday in tribute to “Kauai’s Ocean Voyagers.”

“If you can feel it spiritually when you’re there, then you’re in the right place,” says Melissia Mae Sugai, commissioner of the event.

That supernatural energy, or “mana,” she’s talking about is real. When Thomas Weston Keolaikepapalua Lindsey Jr., Russ Michael Keali‘i Mahuiki-Cummings and Mauna Kea Trask present an opening ceremony dressed in royal garb representing the three Hawaiian kings who will be honored at the parade — Manokalanipo, Kaumuali‘i and Kamehameha — prior to a Kauai Midweek interview in May, it feels as if the ali‘i are actually present. And if that’s any indication of what the event will be like, then spectators are in for a real treat.

Thomas Keolaikepapalua Lindsey Jr. (King Manokalanipo) and Mauna Kea Trask (King Kaumuali‘i) exchange their ‘life force’ through breath during a ceremony in Lihue.

Everyone who participates in the parade, from the King’s Court to the female horseback riders decked in flowers and lei who represent each island,

takes the event to heart. Proper protocol, much like the chant Lindsey conducted prior to his interview with Kauai Midweek, is used throughout the event from the opening to closing ceremonies. In other words, along with your hair standing up on end, a natural honor and respect for the culture comes with the territory.

“I want people to have the understanding of our culture. To really, truly understand what we’re about, what we represent,” says Sugai. “So that if I’m a visitor and I’m looking at it, it takes me back in time.”

Wade Nakamoto served as the King’s Celebration and Parade Pa‘u Marshall in 2016.

Lindsey will represent Manokalanipo, who ruled the island in the 1400s during what is known as the “Golden Age,” when peace was prevalent. While today’s world is anything but free of conflict, Lindsey takes his role seriously and plans to bring the king’s concentration on harmony with him to the parade.

“The mana is forever, it transcends time periods. So, peace should too, and unity should too, and that is what my vision and dream is,” he says. “Aloha is the most powerful force that we know of; that is it.”

By being a part of the event, he also yearns to encourage people to live more like the ancient Hawaiians did, especially during Manokalanipo’s era when there was a heightened focus on the ‘aina (land).

This year’s King’s Celebration and Parade will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We cannot just take. We cannot eat concrete and we cannot eat golf course grass. ‘Aina is the land that gives us food to eat. We need to support the earth,” he says. “No matter how rich you are, we’re not going to have an earth if it dies.”

Mahuiki-Cummings is also looking forward to sharing important messages through his representation of Kaumuali‘i, the last reigning king of Kauai. And he’s eager to express his cultural heritage.

“The event is a chance for me to break away from the matrix, get back to my culture,” says Mahuiki-Cummings, who works as a prison guard with Lindsey at Kauai Community Correctional Center. “For me it’s just a short period of time to just break away and be Hawaiian.

Ashley Pimental, Oahu’s Pa‘u Princess, is a picture of elegance as she greets spectators.

“I look at it as a privilege and an honor to represent.”

He also hopes to inspire younger and older generations to unite, a symbol of what Kamehameha, who will be represented by Trask, intended to do with the Hawaiian Islands.

“Coming together as one,” says Mahuiki-Cummings.

The parade is a statewide event initiated by the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission and made possible on the island by the Malie Foundation and the County of Kauai. Because the Garden Isle was never conquered and instead peacefully surrendered to Kamehameha’s kingdom by Kaumuali‘i in 1810, the celebration on Kauai is unique in that it incorporates three ali‘i rather than one.

Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala perform at a past King’s Celebration and Parade. PHOTO COURTESY OF DENNIS FUJIMOTO

Several years ago, the event almost ceased to exist before Sugai took over in 2013, at which point participation was negligible and attendance was meager. But with her effort, the event has had a resurgence and continues to flourish today. This is due in part to the lifelike representation of ali‘i, as well as the chicken-skin feeling of aloha that everyone who attends, receives.

“If you give aloha, and you don’t get it back, it wasn’t aloha that you gave in the first place,” says Lindsey, who intends to provide plenty of unconditional love that day. “You give it without expectation. You need to be patient, it takes time.”

Thomas Keolaikepapalua Lindsey conducts a ceremony as King Manokalanipo, who he will represent, at the King’s Celebration and Parade on Saturday.

The theme for this year’s King’s Celebration and Parade is ho‘okahi ka ‘ilau like ana, or “wield the paddles together.” The parade begins at 9 a.m. at Vidinha Stadium and proceeds along Rice Street to the Historic County Building. At the end of the parade will be a ho‘olaule‘a (celebration) with Hawaiian entertainment including hula, music, crafts, food and cultural demonstrations until 2 p.m.