The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is inviting the public, from keiki to kupuna, to sew locally-grown flowers to honor veterans interred at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl and the State Veterans' Cemetery in Kaneohe.
HDOA's Plant Quarantine Branch will open its doors on Saturday, May 25, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Plant Quarantine Branch, 1849 Auiki St., near Sand Island (click here for map). Parking is free.
HDOA will provide thousands of locally-grown flowers and the lei-making supplies. Backyard flowers are also welcome!
"The long-standing tradition that honors our veterans holds greater Aloha when the lei is made with our local flowers," said Russell S. Kokubun, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. "Over the past years, many Hawaii flower growers have gone out of business due to competition from foreign growers. When we talk about sustainability, it doesn’t just mean food security, it also includes the preservation of traditions and cultural aspects that make our community thrive."
Finished lei will be taken to the Oahu veterans’ cemeteries to be placed on the graves by local scouting organizations the following day. More than 50,000 lei are needed to honor every grave.
"We have ordered thousands of plumeria, tuberose, orchids and other lei flowers and foliage," said Carol Okada, manager of the Plant Quarantine Branch. "We need to turn the tide and replace imported flowers with local flowers and the more people get that message, the stronger Hawaii’s floriculture industry can become."
HDOA is working in coordination with the City and County of Honolulu, which is responsible for the Memorial Day ceremonies at Punchbowl. City lei queens will make a special appearance at the event.
There will also be lei-making demonstrations and educational displays.
"If you don’t know how to sew a lei, we will have people available to teach you," said Okada. "We feel it’s a really nice way to honor our veterans as well as showcase Hawaii blossoms."
The public may also drop off flowers at the Plant Quarantine Branch earlier in the week if they are not able to attend on May 25.
For more information and to link to a map to the event, go to the HDOA website at: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/hdoa-highlights-local-flowers-to-honor-veterans/