On September 11, 1976, the Kalihi-Palama Culture & Arts Society, Inc. organized a festival to honor Hawai’i’s last reigning monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani. The day-long event was held at A’ala Park and featured multi-ethnic dance performances, Hawaiian crafts demonstrations, a pageant of Hawai’i’s mo’i wahine, and the first keiki hula competition.
KPC&A’s program coordinator Wendell Silva, along with committee chairman George Naope, envisioned a competition where children could share their achievements in hula while learning about Queen Lili’uokalani, her ‘ohana and Hawai’i’s historical past. The competition was created for youngsters 6 to 12 years of age in “hula ‘auana” only. On the 11th day in September 1976, six groups entered the first Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition.
After two years, the competition moved indoors to the Farrington High School auditorium to provide the dancers with a better venue to showcase their talents. Over the next few years, the competition added the soloists and hula kahiko categories, a separate division for the keiki kane, and the Hawaiian language critique.
The Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition is held annually at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena in July.