Every July on the south shore of Kaua’i, people gather to celebrate the island’s multicultural past and present at the Kōloa Plantation Days festival. Hawaiian culture and tradition, the foundation of the island, is shared and taught through music, dance, costumes, food, and crafts. The celebration is also a look back at how Kaua‘i’s diverse cultural landscape came to be. In 1835, Hawaii’s first sugar plantation was founded, and immigrants came to work from places such as Europe, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, China, and the Azores. Kōloa Plantation Days honors these immigrants and their heritage, as well as the Hawaiians who accepted them into their communities.

The celebration features a historic hometown parade, which includes horseback and walking units, floral floats, vintage cars, and decorated vehicles. Micah Viluan, who is part of the Timbers Kaua‘i ohana, participated in the pa’u riding. Pa’u riding is how queens and ali’i rode to special events and parties. They covered their beautiful dresses in a pa’u, a skirt made of 9-12 yards of fabric. This was fastened and draped majestically to protect their clothing from the dirt when riding on the horses.

This year, Timbers Kaua‘i provided the beautiful foliage and greenery to adorn horses used in the pa’u riding. Collecting the natural materials is an integral part of creating a lei, as well as choosing the right place to gather. Micah describes the protocol when you gather: you chant (oli) to ask permission, wait and feel the presence, then you enter and gather. When you’re finished, you chant again to thank the land.

Micah explains that these events illustrate what life was like during plantation days, and it is a wonderful festivity for guests and locals to see Kōloa side and talk story. Not only is Kōloa Plantation Days a wonderful tribute to the traditions and history of the many cultures on Kaua‘i, it is also a celebration of aloha and acceptance of all people. Micah loves to see that the festival continues to “keep the culture alive, and the feel of aloha alive.”