Kulaia: A Tradition Revived

Raiatea Helm performing at Kulaia. Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

An old tradition of celebrating Hawaiian canoe races has been firmly revived in the Kulaia festival, a Kaunakakai block party that has become a highlight of the year. The fourth annual event on Sept. 22 brought cultural values, entertainment, shopping and honoring of community legacies into one packed evening.

Each year draws a larger crowd, but one of the event organizers, Lori-Lei Rawlins-Crivello, called the attendance “by far the largest we’ve had.”

“Our event continues to grow in attendance and we continue to look at ways to maximize the space we have,” she said of the party that shuts down the Kaunakakai main street. “This year we changed up the location of our food vendors and our merchandise/craft vendors to maximize our space to accommodate the crowd and I think we did a good job at accomplishing that this year. Having our block party style event where it’s currently at is what makes it special so relocating our event to another location is not an option and everyone just loves having it on the street.”

This year, the festival committee honored Dr. Noa Emmett Aluli with the annual Ho`oilina Award.

“He has contributed to the health and wellbeing of the statewide Hawaii community, all the while caring and providing for our beloved Molokai ohana,” said committee member Nahulu Maioho. Aluli has spent four decades as an Aloha `Aina advocate working with the Protect Kaho`olawe `Ohana, providing leadership at the Molokai General Hospital, initiating statewide health studies and operating the Molokai Family Health Clinic and other Molokai health programs.

“We are truly blessed by your diligence and commitment to the health and welfare of our community,” said County Councilmember Stacy Helm Crivello. “No need talk, this man makes the walk.”

Rep. Lynn DeCoite recognized him with a certificate from the State House of Representatives.

“I wanted to come here to learn from the people, learn from the patients, on how to deliver state of the art health,” said Aluli of his arrival to the island in 1975. “The health of this island, the health of the land, the health of the ocean, the health of the resources, is the health of her people. And in the long future, the health of our nation.”

“I’ve never seen so much of a crowd right across from the clinic!” he added.

A variety of food booths, local crafters and artisans, information and demonstration booths, along with merchandise from Na Wahine o Ke Kai race, marked the evening. Among the lineup of noteworthy performers was Molokai’s own Grammy-nominated and eight-time Na Hoku Hanhano Award recipient, Raiatea Helm, all contributing to making it a high to remember for hundreds of attendees.

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