For such a small (140 square miles) island, Lanai is rich in history and legend. The story of Kaulula'au is one of my favorites. The only son of Maui chief Kaka'alaneo, Kaulula'au was the first human inhabitant of Lanai. In fact, the tiny island's full and traditional name is Lana'i O Kaulula'au - Kaulula'au's Day of Conquest.
As the legend goes, Lanai was home to the evil spirit Pahulu and his ghostly followers, who would kill and devour any man who dared land on its shores. Early in the 15th century, when Kaka'alaneo ruled Lele (now known as Lahaina), Kaulula'au was a bright but mischievous young man. Exasperated by Kaulula'au's antics, which included uprooting taro and destroying breadfruit crops, his father banished him to the island of man-eating spirits.
Through trickery and persistence - and with the help of his god Lono Kaulula'au destroyed the ghosts and lit a bonfire to signal his victory. When they saw the flames, the people of Lele rejoiced, and Kaka'alaneo sent 800 settlers across the channel. Kaulula'au reigned as chief of Lanai, fulfilling the family priest's prophecy that he would be destructive in his youth but would later accomplish great feats of strength and bravery.
I don't know if this is true, but I've heard that there are no breadfruit trees on Lanai. Supposedly, the incorrigible Kaulula'au pulled up all the ulu when he first landed on the island, before Pahulu and the cannibal ghosts demanded his attention. Taro was the first crop grown on Lanai. At the turn of the 20th century, the Gibson family, which by then owned most of the island, attempted to raise sugar cane. Their Maunalei Sugar Co. folded after only two years. In 1922, James Dole of Hawaiian Pineapple Co. (later Dole Food Co.) bought the island and turned it into the world's largest pineapple plantation.
By the late 1950s, Hawaiian pineapple cultivation was at its peak, with little Lanai producing almost 75 percent of the world's supply. But in the mid-60s, the industry began a slow decline, and within a decade, the number of pineapple canneries in the state dwindled to three.
Still known as The Pineapple Isle, even though it has been more than 20 years since the last harvest in 1992, Lanai today is home to a little more than 3,000 people. Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison now owns 98 percent of the island. There are two resorts, one historic hotel, and no traffic lights on the island, making it a truly unique visitor destination.
I've made less than a dozen trips to Lanai in my lifetime, all but one visit were work-related. Like many Mauians, I rarely think about the island until it comes into view as I'm driving over the pali to Lahaina. Every so often, it occurs to me that a weekend or even just a day on Lanai would be a perfect, affordable minivacation. But I never follow through.
The folks at the Lanai Community Association (LCA) would like to change that. Since 1945, the nonprofit LCA has supported the community through recreational activities for youth and senior citizens, academic scholarships and community celebrations. Each summer, it gives us Mauians a perfect reason to travel to our serene little sister island: the annual Pineapple Festival, Lanai's largest event of the year.
The 2014 Pineapple Festival will be held July 4 and 5, featuring entertainment, exhibits, craft booths and, of course, lots of onolicious food. Highlights include a cooking contest with one of Lanai's favorite sons, Adam Tabura of Food Network fame, and a musical performance by Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner Weldon Kekauoha. Festivities run from 2 to 6 p.m. on Friday the 4th and resume at 3 p.m. Saturday with a parade at Dole Park. The festival closes at 9 p.m. with a spectacular fireworks display.
If you want to see the fireworks but don't want to make an overnight trip, you're in luck. On Saturday night only, Expeditions will run a late-night ferry from Manele Bay to Lahaina, departing at 10 p.m. The company is also offering land shuttle service between Manele Harbor and Dole Park on Saturday.
For more information on this year's Pineapple Festival, or if you're interested in participating as a vendor, call Darlene Endrina at (808) 559-0471.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.