WASHINGTON - The Aloha spirit is taking centerstage in Washington, D.C. this week.

The festivities kicked off Sunday with the annual King Kamehameha lei draping ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Inside the Capitol Visitors Center, you’ll find the King Kamehameha statue.  Now, groups from Hawaii and the Washington, D.C. areas are making sure everyone knows who the king was, and what he still means to the Hawaiian Islands.

“Kamehameha was the first king to unify all of the Hawaiian Islands,” explained Napua Lokelani Kamakele, a member of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Assoc. East Coast Region.

“It just gives us pride and honor in recognition of his accomplishments, and also the accomplishments of the state,” said Arthur Dias, president of the Hawaii State Society of Washington, D.C.

And one by one, each group paid tribute to King Kamehameha by draping a lei on the king’s right arm. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the statue’s commemoration at the U.S. Capitol.

William Faries was at the first U.S. Capitol ceremony in 1969 when the Kamehameha statue was in Statuary Hall. Fifty years later, he’s back again. This time he helps carry the lei to the statue that’s now in a much more visible location in the CVC’s Emancipation Hall.

“It makes me feel good,” Faries said. “It made me feel bad when he was sitting in the back.”

Honoring King Kamehameha with a statue is significant. Each state can pick just two people to memorialize inside the Capitol.

“As well as King Kamehameha, St. Damien’s statue was also presented on April 15thof 1969,” Dias explained.

The ceremony is about more than just the king. It’s about native Hawaiian culture, tradition, togetherness, and of course, aloha.

“We’re lucky here in the nation’s capital to have a really vibrant and really big Hawaiian community on the East Coast,” said Kamakele.

This is the first of several Hawaii-themed events this week in Washington. Later this week, business leaders will join Senator Mazie Hirono for the annual Hawaii on the Hill.