The Merrie Monarch Festival

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It’s the time of year when Hilo, Hawaiʻi comes alive with visitors from the Hawaiian islands, the continent and international who come to participate and enjoy a week of exciting events only experienced in Hilo. You can be sure to be dazzled by the spectacular craft fair held at the Civic Center with fabulous local craft vendors and food booths. You will also be entertained by some of Hawaiʻi’s award-winning live music while you shop! There is also a parade with pāʻū unit riders, floats, and escorted vehicles showcasing community clubs and various groups that will amaze you. This year’s festival began on March 31 and will end on April 6. The exciting hula portion of the festival begins on Wednesday, April 3rd at the Edith Kanakaʻole Tennis Stadium:

4/3 Exhibition night
4/4 Miss Aloha Hula (coveted soloist competition)
4/5 Kahiko night (ancient group dance)
4/6 ‘Auana night (modern group dance)

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a special event that captures the spirit of aloha, hula, music, and the sweet fragrance of fresh flowers in the air. It is highlighted with 3 days of hula competition held at the Edith Kanaka’ole Tennis Stadium where some of the best Hālau (school of dance) in Hawaiʻi and the U.S. continent will compete for the title in traditional and modern hula. Founded by Aunty Dottie Thompson and Uncle George Naʻope in 1963, each participating hālau is selected and “invited” to compete and must maintain a high level of excellence to return the following year.

Photo Credit: Google Images, King David Kalākaua also known as the “Merrie Monarch”

King David Kalākaua, also known as the “Merrie Monarch” was the last reigning king in the Hawaiian Monarchy from 1874-1891. After the arrival of the missionaries, hula was forbidden as it was considered unchristian and against the westerner’s beliefs. During his reign, Kalākaua fought to revive the sacred art of hula and music. “Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people,” said the King; for it was a way for native Hawaiians to connect and preserve their culture.

Today, the Merrie Monarch is one the most popular events seen worldwide that celebrate Hawaiian culture. It is also an economic booster for Hilo, Hawaiʻi with hotels fully booked, and restaurants and merchants thriving with business throughout the week. Many consider flying into Kona, taking advantage of the breathtaking views and stops on the way to Hilo. Short-term vacation rentals are especially sought after during this time for their weekʻs stay, as it is challenging to find hotel availability in Hilo.

At the heart of the Merrie Monarch Festival lies the ancient art of hula, a dance form that serves as a vehicle for storytelling, cultural expression, and spiritual connection. Hula is more than just movement; it is a living embodiment of Hawaiian history, mythology, and values. Through graceful gestures, mesmerizing chants, and intricate footwork, hula dancers convey tales of love, nature, and the human experience, passing down ancestral knowledge from generation to generation.

One of our very own LUVA agents, Geramine Hopkins who has been a member of Hālau Nā Mamo o Puʻuanahulu for over 3 decades is celebrating their 30th anniversary since the first time participating at the Merrie Monarch. Her hālau is under the direction of nā kumu hula William Kahakuleilehua Sonny Ching and Lōpaka Igarta DeVera. You can see their soloist, kane group and wahine group compete on all three nights.

While tickets to attend the Merrie Monarch are difficult to obtain, you may view the live broadcast or stream on our local networks. For more information on this year’s festival visit the to see the list of events, participants, judges and other festival news.

Happy 61st Merrie Monarch!