The lei on display at Kapiolani Park

1 05 2018

HONOLULU—Every May 1st floral designers make lei for the Hawaiian Lei Contest sponsored by the City at Kapiolani Park. A horticulturist identifies the plant elements in the lei upon entry, and then organizers line up the creations near the parking lot between the park Bandstand and the Waikiki Shell.

The display opens to the public to view with the untying of a ti leaf lei around 12:30 p.m. after the Royal May Day Court sees it first.

Today I was first in line along with Evelyn who I just met. We are both lei makers, too. Although we did not enter anything, we came for ideas! Check out my images. You can practically smell the flowers, can’t you? The lei in the last photo in the series took the Mayor’s Grand Prize.







Mayor’s Grand Prize is awarded to Melvin T. Labra for his wili style lei of ‘ohai ali‘i, palapalai, and kukunaokala.

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii!


Shadows on the carriageway

21 12 2015

For a memoir of Oahu and Waikiki, this image of Leahi (Diamond Head) and the carriageway in Kapiolani Park may be for you. It is available now for your consideration. The path, familiar to island residents like these Sunday painters, is lined with ironwood trees and extends from the Bandstand to the tennis courts. $250 with hardwood frame. $200 unframed. VISA and MasterCard accepted. For delivery information, please email

"Shadows on the Carriageway" 20" x 10" giclée on canvas

“Shadows on the Carriageway” 20″ x 10″ giclée reproduction on canvas of an original oil painted in 2013 by Rebekah Luke

Kids and me at the Filipino Fiesta

12 05 2013

Anxious to finish another painting, I headed out to Kapiolani Park yesterday only to find the Annual Filipino Fiesta staged there. It’s Saturday. Duh. I didn’t care. It takes me an hour to drive there from the studio, and DH gave up the use of our one car, so I felt I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

I circumnavigated the park twice after deciding to not park illegally and before squeezing into a spot on Leahi avenue that my friend Pi‘ikea would term “in the next county.”

Plein air oil painters lug their French easels, paints, and what-have-you all over the creation. We need to be there for the light. So I hoofed it.

I visualized my painting spot empty as I walked toward the iconic ironwood-lined path, and it was! Right in the middle of a pedestrian aisle lined with two rows of tent booths and across from the food booths and their aroma, each with a long line of customers.

The tinikling and other Filipino and pop tunes from the bandstand blared, and I welcomed another of day of painting to music. The one I did at the recent Bluegrass Hawaii festival was successful.

"Bluegrass Hawaii," 20"x16" oil on canvas

“Bluegrass Hawaii,” 20″x16″ oil on canvas

As you might imagine there were a lot of spectators, photographers, and videographers who stopped to watch me paint. I’m happy to stop and converse. What I like the best are the children. Here’s a sample of their comments and questions (some adults ask the same things):

Kid: What kind of paint is that?
Me: Oil paint.
Kid: Did you draw that?
Me: Uh huh.
Kid: How long did it take you to paint that?
Me: This is my fourth or fifth time out.
Kid: Are the people in the painting still there?
Me: Try look. Are they?
Kid: What are you going to call your painting?
Me: How about “Ironwood Path at Kapiolani Park”? “Diamond Head” is too ordinary, don’t you think?
Kid: (smiles widely and nods approval)
Kid (noticing the vista): Oh, look! She’s painting that!
Kid: Wow, you have a lot of colors.
Me: Do you like to draw?
Kid: Yes.
Kid: Are you going to be an artist when you grow up?
Older kid (punching the first kid in the arm): She IS an artist.
Me: Yup, when I grow up.
Me and Taxx, who I just met, with my painting in progress, i.e., it is not from completed (Photo by Taxx's photographer)

Me and Taxx, who I just met, with my painting in progress, i.e., it is not completed. I am revisiting some places I painted about 20 years ago and painting them again. This is one of them. I hope to mount an exhibit to compare the art works. Is there any growth? Have I grown up?  (Photo by Taxx’s photographer)

Copyright 2013 Rebekah Luke

In Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day

1 05 2010

The art of lei making is showcased today with the annual lei contest at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii after all. The public can see different styles of lei in categories of colors and age groups of the lei makers.

Last year’s 2009 grand prize winner was a drape of many strands of plumeria buds cleverly snipped and strung kui style. So simple, but different, and what an elegant statement!

Plumeria comprises the 2009 grand prize winner

The blue ribbon in last year’s mixed category was this beauty:

I apologize, I did not record the names of the lei makers, but I’m betting they are entering their creations again today.

Once, in the 1970s when we both did work for Sunset‘s Hawaii office, I had the pleasure of accompanying horticulturist Horace Clay who identified the plant materials in each lei as the contestants brought in their entries early on May 1. They came in from all islands, and Horace had a great time telling anecdotes about the plants and where or how far someone had to go to gather the material. The lei makers were so happy and proud of their lei. They had stayed up into the wee hours of the morning making them. I thought all of them were magnificent.

My friends Kamakea and Kai who come from a long family line of Hawaiian lei makers made these blue marble lei in the next photo to look like jewelry. I saw them for sale at last Saturday’s hoolaulea at Hauula Elementary School. Hawaiians use all sorts of natural plant materials, not just flowers, to adorn themselves. What looks like carved round Oriental wood beads is actually the inside of a blue marble (Elaeocarpus grandis) fruit.

Blue marble lei — by Kamakea & Kai

The brilliant blue skin is peeled away, revealing a fuzzy hairy seed. Kamakea and Kai wire brush and wash away the fuzz—a time-consuming job. They further clean out the indentations of each sphere with a Dremel tool. They drill holes for stringing and finish the necklaces with two polished kukui nuts and ribbon. Before all of that, however, they gather a supply of blue marbles. It’s a lot like fishing: seed lei makers don’t tell where their favorite spot is!

If you have time today, head on down to Kapiolani Park to see this year’s beautiful lei. They could inspire you in your own art work, in lei or other medium. In the event the judging takes a while, be prepared to wait for the viewing to open. There are other related Lei Day activities in the park to see, such as crafts and food and Hawaiian music and hula dancing.

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

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