In 1903, the Territory of Hawaiʻi, Chamber of Commerce and Merchants’ Association created the Hawaiʻi Promotion Committee (forerunner to the Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau.)
Supported by a legislative appropriation, it was mandated to provide better publicity to encourage tourism to Hawaiʻi.
The early years of the Territorial era saw the creation of a series of public celebrations. Beginning with the Mid-Pacific Carnival in 1904, a series of multiethnic public celebrations and parades were created to attract tourists and showcase Hawaiʻi’s multi-ethnic culture.
Some were overtly characterized as celebrations designed to get visitors to come and/or extend their stays in Hawai’i. Others took advantage of the tourist audience and presented these congenial multiethnic celebrations as the embodiment of the Aloha Spirit.
The Mid-Pacific Carnival, held in February as a celebration in honor of Washington’s birthday, had spectacular and historic pageants and military parades featured.
During the winter season, the Mid-Pacific Carnival was at Aʻala Park in downtown Honolulu. Circus acts, sideshows and hula dancers entertained the public. With the carnival was the annual Floral Parade.
In 1914, the Promotion Committee chose to feature surfing and swimming legend Duke Kahanamoku standing his surfboard on its program and promotional pieces. It was sent all over the world as advertisement to benefit the Territory.
In 1915, a Peace Pageant celebrating one hundred years of peace between America and Great Britain was given by The Friend as a feature of the Mid-Pacific Carnival. Several thousand persons witnessed this educational feature. (The Friend)
On a separate track, starting several years before (1871,) but still ongoing, Kamehameha V had created a celebration with horse-riding and other sports to honor his grandfather, Kamehameha I.
Initially held on December 11, Kamehameha V’s birthday, it was agreed to make this celebration an annual event, but because of the uncertain weather in December it was decided to change the date to June.
Kamehameha V died soon after, and the holiday remained as a “Day in Commemoration of Kamehameha I,” (La Ho‘o-mana‘o o Kamehameha I.) The 1896 legislature declared it a national holiday.
Almost from its first observance this day was celebrated chiefly by horse races in Kapiʻolani Park, but the races eventually gave way to today’s parades of floats and pāʻū riders.
In 1916, Mid-Pacific Carnival merged into the Kamehameha Day Parade.
In 1939, Hawaii Revised Statute 8-5 under the Territorial Legislature of Hawai‘i created the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission.
In 1978 the legislature renamed this holiday King Kamehameha I Day.
On February 14, 1883, the Kamehameha statue was unveiled at Aliʻiōlani Hale during the coronation ceremonies for King Kalākaua. The customary draping of the Kamehameha Statue with lei dates back to 1901.