Pa'u units prepare for King Kamehameha celebration parade

Published On: Jun 11 2014 07:16:00 PM HST

With the King Kamehameha Floral Parade just days away, we're taking a behind the scenes look of all the work it takes to make the event a success.

Click here to watch Paula Akana's story.

The pa'u units are the big draw in the King Kamehameha celebration parade. They are made up of seven riders and each represents one of Hawaii's main islands. They even dress in the colors of their particular island.

The riders practice for months. Most are accomplished riders and have to handle the horses along a more than four and 1/2 mile route.

Johnnell Kelley is this year's Moloka'i pa'u princess. She was supposed to have been a princess last year, but got injured in a rodeo.

"Unfortunately I wasn't able to ride the horse because of my injury, but my unit and I actually rode in a convertible, which was a Mustang – even though it wasn't a horse," said Kelley.

But this year she's back. We caught up with Kelley and her unit at one of their many weekend practices at the Diamond J. Ranch Arena in Waianae Valley.

"The days I know that I have all my seven riders, we work on what we need to do – the lines, staging, the turns, presentation – everything. That's all we work on. We try to do the best that we can and have fun," said Kelley. "That's the main thing – I want everyone to have fun."

It's been months of practicing all for those few hours when they will ride as a unit along the parade route.

"I just feel beautiful up there – for that day, you know? But, prepping for all what we did, it's worth it. It's really worth every little bit of that work we put into it," said Kelley. "We do it from the heart and we do it ourselves and it's awesome. It's really awesome."

Have you ever noticed that slight dip of the hat riders do? The unit practices how they will pay that brief tribute to the King as they pass his statue on King Street. Kelley says it will be an emotional moment for her parade day.

"It brings tears to my eyes cause you just – I don't know how. But yeah, it's a great feeling. You are honoring somebody from the past. It makes me cry, you know. You represent a great man and it's just beautiful," said Kelley.

Thursday night is pa'u unit lei making.

You'll see Kelley, her unit and all the others Saturday in the 98th annual King Kamehameha Celebration floral parade.

The parade airs live on OC-16 Saturday and then the parade highlights air later on KITV4 beginning at 4 p.m.

PHOTOS: Kamehameha statue lei draping 2014

Click here for photos from the King Kamehameha statue lei draping.


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