collage of William Seward and Prince Kuhio on top of maps of Alaska and Hawaii

Every March, military personnel deployed to Alaska and Hawaii discover unique state holidays. Seward’s Day in Alaska and Prince Kuhio Day in Hawaii each celebrate the important contributions of men who shaped the future of these states.

The Department of Defense considers military bases in Alaska and Hawaii to be OCONUS or “outside the continental United States,“ so Armed Forces Entertainment sends performers to provide R&R to our troops there on a regular basis.

  • Since 2017, AFE has sent 20 tours and 79 individual shows to our troops in Alaska. While the shows mainly present performers such as Runaway June, Preacher Lawson, Tommy Davidson and the Magic of Rob Lake, AFE also sponsored Lifefit which provided CrossFit training sessions, and the fan-favorite Pro Blitz Tour that includes meet-and-greet time with NFL players, cheerleaders, alumni and mascots. AFE kicked off 2022 with tours by Chingy, Dueling Pianos, Bruce Campbell’s Last Fan Standing trivia show, and hockey stars of the NHL and U.S. Olympic Team.
  • In the same timeframe, AFE sent 13 tours and 42 shows to Hawaii. While many of the performers who entertained troops in Alaska also headed to Hawaii, the islands have also enjoyed unique performances by Natalie Imbruglia, and Stone Temple Pilots who headlined RIMPAC in 2018.

Alaska’s important strategic locations include U.S. military installations at Eielson AFB, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Clear SFS, Ft. Wainwright AB and Ft. Greely AB. Coast Guard Base Kodiak is also located in Alaska. Neither the Navy nor the Marines have bases in the state.

Hawaii’s importance as a strategic military position is also clear, with 13 active Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and joint base operations including those at Schofield Barracks, Barking Sands, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Discovering Seward’s Day

Portrait of William H. Seward, Secretary of State 1861-69, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of William H. Seward, Secretary of State 1861-69, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

It was no folly when Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. Each year the state celebrates the day and the man, commemorating the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty on March 30, 1867. Alaska Day, celebrated October 18, commemorates the official transfer of the land.  

A Treasury Check in the Amount of $7.2 Million for the Purchase of Alaska.
A Treasury Check in the Amount of $7.2 Million for the Purchase of Alaska, 1867. Public Domain, National Archives.

Most Americans connect the word “folly” to William Seward, yet he was a highly respected statesman. Seward was a strong national voice against slavery and as New York governor he signed several laws advancing the rights of the state’s Black residents. As Secretary of State for President Abraham Lincoln, Seward managed the nation’s foreign affairs: Had he not rejected foreign intervention in the Civil War, the Confederacy might have been solidified as a separate nation.

Seward advocated for American expansionism. Although Alaska was the only territory added during his time in office, he influenced future expansion which led to Hawaii’s statehood, plus the acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone.

Seward’s Day is celebrated on the last Monday in March. It is a day off work for most Alaskans and both county and city government offices are closed. Events include special history programs and public storytelling times dedicated to the state’s early days and its native populations.

Praise for Prince Kuhio

Portrait of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole Day (or Prince Kuhio Day) is a cultural celebration of  Hawaii’s history as a kingdom, American territory and U.S. state. Prince Kuhio was a prince of the Kingdom of Hawaii until its overthrow in 1893. He later become a delegate to the United States Congress. Prince Kuhio Day recognizes his service and efforts to improve the lives of the people of Hawaii.

From right to left: Rep. Carter Glass; Speaker of the House Holstein; Delegate Prince Kuhio; Kansas Rep. Campbell; and Honolulu Mayor Lane pose on the campaign trail, 1915. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Left: Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, 1920, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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From right to left: Rep. Carter Glass; Speaker of the House Holstein; Delegate Prince Kuhio; Kansas Rep. Campbell; and Honolulu Mayor Lane pose on the campaign trail, 1915. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

Born in 1871 on the island of Kauai, Kuhio studied in California and England. At 24 years old he returned to the islands to join the Royalists rising against the new republic organized by the sugar plantation and other business owners. He was captured and convicted of treason. He later worked with the same industrialists who overthrew the monarchy as a way of returning to a position of power where he could help the Hawaiian people. Kuhio was elected to 11 terms as territorial delegate to the U.S. Congress, wrote the first Hawaii Statehood Bill in 1919, and won passage of the Hawaiian Homes Act which set aside land for native Hawaiian homesteaders. Prince Kuhio died in 1922, and the holiday was established to honor him in 1949, ten years before Hawaii became the 50th state.

Prince Kuhio Day events include parades, live music, cultural demonstrations, traditional craft sales, dance performances and luaus. State offices and public schools are closed during the holiday.

For those of you stationed in Alaska and Hawaii, happy Seward’s Day and Prince Kuhio Day. We’ll see you soon for another fantastic AFE show, right in your back yard.

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