The author lives in a quiet seaside community in lower Puna on the Big Island. He's an avid gardener, traveler, and photographer.
Many visitors to Hawaii are often so busy sightseeing or relaxing on the beach that they miss some interesting local events during their stay on the islands. One of those events is the annual orchid show in Hilo on the Big Island. This 3-day orchid extravaganza is held every year in August at the historic Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium near downtown Hilo. Whether you are an orchid enthusiast, or just an admirer of these unique flowering plants, this event is a must see! Organized by the Hilo Orchid Society for almost 60 years, the annual orchid show is a highly anticipated event. Well attended by orchid growers and hobbyists from all over the state of Hawaii, it also attracts a number of avid orchid collectors from North America, Asia, and Europe. Each year, the show has a central theme which exhibitors incorporate into their exhibits inside the 18,700 square feet stadium. These lavish displays, along with a myriad of orchid varieties, are carefully judged and then presented with prestigious awards by a team of American Orchid Society judges.
In 2011, the 59th annual orchid show was held on Friday, August 5, through Sunday, August 7, with the theme “Orchid Safari." Thousands of orchid specimens from professional and amateur growers on the Big Island were showcased. Major orchid species in the Orchidaceae family including Cattleya, Dendrobium, Miltonia, Oncidiinae, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis, Pleurothallis, Vanda, as well as many other hybrids and cultivars, were on display at the show. Exhibitors created some of the most elaborate and stunning displays across the stadium’s floor, using a profusion of orchids and tropical plants in every color, size, and shape you could imagine. Some of the displays were quite large, and it took a while for attendees to walk through and see everything. Several of the displays featured orchids that had an intoxicating fragrance to lure in viewers. Attendees were enthralled with a great variety of new orchid species on display. Some varieties produced gigantic flower sprays 4-5 feet long! Other varieties had tiny inconspicuous blooms that you almost needed a magnifying glass to see! But the most spectacular of all were those rare or unusual orchids. To see these gems up-close in person was truly an awe-inspiring experience. It was like seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time or catching a glimpse of the extinct Ivory-billed woodpecker!
The American Orchid Society judges met and did their meticulous work the day before the show started. This year, the awards for orchids included Best Species, Best Specimen and Most Unusual or Rare. The coveted Grand Champion Award went to a sensational bright yellow Paphiopedilum Dollgoldi. The awards for the displays ranged from Best Show Display to Best Theme Display to Best Educational Display. The trophies and ribbons were placed next to the winning displays or orchid plants, to be recognized by the show’s attendees.
Every year at the orchid show, along with the dazzling displays, there are also dozens of vendors from local orchid farms and nurseries with booths set up to sell their orchids. At the Plant Sales area inside the stadium, attendees are able to browse and purchase orchids—many similar to the ones viewed in the displays. Fully mature orchid plants in bloom, as well as young specimens, are available for sale. The vendors also act as orchid experts to answer questions and give advice on how to care for your newly purchased orchid. With correct watering, feeding and lighting conditions, these orchids will bloom again and again. Also available for sale are large collections of orchid pots (in wood, clay, or porcelain), jewelry, artwork, and unique orchid-related items from other vendors. Attendees can sign up for many free demonstrations scheduled for each day at the show including Flower Arranging with Orchids, Orchid Pests and Diseases, Orchid Potting Mixes, and Basic Orchid Culture. There’s also a refreshment area located at one corner of the stadium, where attendees can sit and enjoy local food and drink and watch a live hula dance performance.
Hilo Orchid Society’s annual orchid show is held at the Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium. Close to Hilo airport and downtown area, the 4000-seat stadium is a famous landmark. It is named after the beloved hula dancer and singer Aunty Edith Kanaka’ole (1913-1979) who was a native of the Big Island. Besides being the home of the annual orchid show, this stadium also hosts the renowned Merrie Monarch Festival and Hula Competition which brings thousands of hula dancers and spectators from all over the world to the Big Island every year in April.
Hilo Orchid Society’s annual show is sponsored in part by grants from the County of Hawaii and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Orchid Show Tips
- $4 admission fee (children 12 & under free).
- Bring a camera with good zoom lens.
- Never touch the orchids in the displays!
- Buy some orchids to bring home. Look for special deals (like buy 2 get 1 free!) from many vendors. Warning: some popular orchid varieties might sell out quickly!
- If you bought orchids in the Plant Sales area and want to go back into the Exhibit area, leave your orchids at the "Plant Hotel" area where volunteer staff will hold them for you (as no purchased orchids are allowed in the Exhibit area).
- Friday, the first day of the show, is usually less crowded and easier to find a parking spot. You’ll have a better chance to see the displays without having to stand, tip-toe, or crank your neck over a sea of heads. You may also have the first opportunity to purchase orchid plants!
- There’s a fabulous dinner gala ($65 per person to benefit local charities) on the night before the show at the stadium where you can mingle with Hilo’s finest orchid connoisseurs. This dinner includes orchid and displays preview, great food, fine wine, and live music.
About the Author
This author goes to the Hilo orchid show each year. There's hardly any more room for orchids in his house but he can’t help himself from bringing home a few more!
More Hidden Hawaii
- Hidden Hawaii: The Lively Maku'u Farmers Market in Puna on the Big Island
Makuu farmers market in Puna district on the Big Island is famous for an eclectic mix of ethnic foods and abundant fresh local produces. The friendly vendors and customers at this market reflect a laidback and extremely diverse Puna community.
- Hidden Hawaii: The New Kaimu Black Sand Beach in Kalapana on the Big Island
In 1990, a massive lava flow buried the world famous Kaimu black sand beach under 60 feet of lava. Now, twenty years later, a spectacular new beach is forming as the result of ocean waves crashing relentlessly against the new lava-extended shoreline.
- Hidden Hawaii: The Enchanted Red Road along Puna Coast on the Big Island
The Kapoho Kalapana Road, also known as the Red Road, travels along the coastline of the lower Puna district on the Big Island. It is one of the most scenic roads in the state of Hawaii.
© 2011 Viet Doan
Tony Mead from Yorkshire on October 07, 2011:
orchids have to be the most wonderful of all plants. My wife has about 30 different ones and they never stop blooming and showing off. we always have a wonderfeul show of colour.
Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on September 11, 2011:
Thanks so much carcro! Come visit the Aloha State soon, you will see more beautiful wild orchids growing on trees everywhere...
Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on September 10, 2011:
Hawaii looks so amazing, those pics look beautiful... Definitely a place to visit one day. Thanks for sharing. Voted Up and Beautiful!
Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on September 09, 2011:
Aloha Molly! Glad you enjoy the show. Hope you will have a chance to see it in person soon.
Molly Kathleen from Portsmouth, NH on September 08, 2011:
Very interesting and beautiful! I would love to go sometime! :)
Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on August 25, 2011:
Aloha elayne001! Come over to the Big Island next August for the show. You might need strong will power to not buy every orchid you like! :)
Elayne from Rocky Mountains on August 25, 2011:
I love orchids and would love to come to the annual Orchid Show on the Big Island. I have been there a few times, but not to the show. Thanks for a beautiful hub. Aloha!