How was Kamehameha Day celebrated in 1872, when Kamehameha V established the holiday? Here’s a historical record, via nupepa-hawaii.com:
The sight of the race track on that day, was as if like no other before. The lanai and tents were nicely built, and congratulations go to those responsible for that distinguished job. The lanai and grounds were filled all the way atop the hills with thousands enjoying themselves with the festivities of the day. Should a visitor stand far away and look forth, it was as if it was a scene from great racing days in Europe. The events of the day began at 10 o’clock or thereafter; and to take in all of the many fun activities of the day was great; there were no big uproars to disturb the peace; that is something unusual for big days like this.
Check out the original post for a full report on the races of the day.