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The Merrie Monarch Festival 2018

Dates of competition: April 5 - April 7, 2018

Facts on purchasing tickets

The Merrie Monarch Festival starts with a Ho'olaulea (music festival) at the Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium. All week there is free noon-day entertainment at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and Naniloa Volcanoes Resort. On Wednesday, there is a free exhibition night at the Edith Kanaka'ole Tennis Stadium that begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday The big Merrie Monarch Royal Parade winds through downtown Hilo at 10:30 a.m.

Do not miss the arts and crafts fair is held from Wednesday through Saturday at the Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Merrie Monarch Festival, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii
© Victoria McCormick

Merrie Monarch Festival event

The annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in Hilo, Big Island of Hawaii, is a week long festival of cultural events including Hawaii’s most prestigious hula competitions at Edith Kanaka’ole stadium. The hula festival takes place the week after Easter. It begins with a Ho’olaule’a on Moku Ola (Coconut Island) on Easter Sunday in Hilo with lots of music, food and fun. On Wednesday there is a free hula exhibition night at the stadium that begins at 6:30pm. Thursday is the solo Miss Aloha Hula competition, where each dancer performs both hula kahiko (ancient hula) and hula `auana (modern hula). Friday and Sat are the group Kahiki (ancient) and Auana (modern) hula competition. A grand parade takes place through Hilo town Sat morning.

The Merrie Monarch Festival has led to a renaissance of the Hawaiian culture that is being passed on from generation to generation. The festival includes art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, performances, a parade that emphasizes the cultures of Hawaii, and a three-day hula competition that has received worldwide recognition for its historic and cultural significance.

In preparation of the Merrie Monarch Festival, hula studios and instructors in Hawaii and on the U.S. Mainland hold classes, workshops, and seminars throughout the year to teach the art of hula, the meaning of Hawaiian chants and songs, the Hawaiian language, the making of Hawaiian clothing and crafts, and the history of the Hawaiian people.

History of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival

The Merrie Monarch Festival began in 1964 and has evolved into what is now considered to be the world's most prestigious hula competition. The festival is named in honor of King David Kalakaua, the last king of the Hawaiian islands, whose coronation in 1883 included public displays of hula, which had long been buried under rules imposed by Hawaiian missionaries. Kalakaua ruled for seventeen years. His reign was marked by a resurgence in Hawaiian culture, music and included numerous public performances of hula. Because of his love of dance and music, Kalakaua was nicknamed, "the Merrie Monarch." In his memory and in celebration of Hawaiian culture, dance and music, the Merrie Monarch Festival is held each year.

Merrie Monarch Festival Winners: 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Merrie Monarch Festival 2017

April 16 - 22, 2017

Congratulations To The Competition Winners Of

The 54th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival

Hilo, Hawaii


(In Alphabetical Order)

Ainsley Halemanu

Rachel Lahela Kaʻaihue

Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele

Etua Lopes

Piʻilani Lua

Kealiʻi Reichel

Kalena Silva

1st Place
Highest Combined Points 
1,168 points

Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai o Haʻehaʻe (Wahine)

Nā Kumu Hula Tracie Kaʻōnohilani Farias Lopes and Robert Keawe Lopes
Puahuʻula, Kāneʻohe, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu

1st Place 
1,168 points 

Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai o Haʻehaʻe
Nā Kumu Hula Tracie Kaʻōnohilani Farias Lopes and Robert Keawe Lopes
Puahuʻula, Kāneʻohe, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu

2nd Place 
1,133 points

Hālau Hiʻiakaināmakalehua
Nā Kumu Hula Robert Keʻanokealakahikikapoleikamakaʻopua “Keʻano” Kaʻupu IV and Kauhilonohonua “Lono” Padilla
Kalihi, Honolulu, Oʻahu

3rd Place 
1,132 points

Hula Hālau ʻO Kamuela
Nā Kumu Hula Kauʻionālani “Kauʻi” Kamanaʻo and Kunewa Mook
Kalihi, Honolulu, Oʻahu and Waimānalo, Oʻahu

1st Place
1,148 points

Hālau Hula ʻO Kawailiʻulā
Kumu Hula Chinky Māhoe
Kailua, Oʻahu

2nd Place
1,133 points

Hālau I Ka Wēkiu
Kumu Hula Karl Kamaluikauakokoha'aheoinapali “Veto” Baker & Michael Nalanakila'ekolu “Lanakila” Casupang
Pauoa, Honolulu, Oʻahu

3rd Place
1,132 points

Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi
Nā Kumu Hula Brandon ʻIliahi Paredes and Joy Lynn Haunani Pascua Paredes
Wailuku, Maui

1st Place
1,175 points

Kelina Kiyoko Keʻanoʻilehua Tiffany Eldredge
Hālau Hiʻiakaināmakalehua
Nā Kumu Hula Robert Keʻanokealakahikikapoleikamakaʻopua “Keʻano” Kaʻupu IV and Kauhilonohonua “Lono” Padilla
Kalihi, Honolulu, Oʻahu

2nd Place (Tie Breaker)
1,175 points

Julyen Machiko Kaloke Kaluna
Hula Hālau ʻO Kamuela
Nā Kumu Hula Kauʻionālani “Kauʻi” Kamanaʻo and Kunewa Mook
Kalihi, Honolulu, Oʻahu and Waimānalo, Oʻahu

3rd Place
1,024 points

Chelei Kameleonālani Kahalewai
Hālau Hula ʻO Kawailiʻulā
Kumu Hula Chinky Māhoe
Kailua, Oʻahu

4th Place
1,115 points

Amanda Hiwalei Aliser
Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leināʻala
Kumu Hula Leināʻala Pavao Jardin
Kalāheo, Kauaʻi

5th Place
1,006 points

Miriam Anuhea Kamakanaokealoha Hokoana Arakawa
Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka o Uka
Kumu Hula Jaye Kawaiʻalakaʻoionāpuaopiʻilani “Nāpua” Greig-Nakasone
Waiohuli, Kula, Maui

Here are definitions for some Hawaiian language and hula terms:

Alaka'i - instructor; often used when referring to kumu hula's (teacher) assistant
Auana - modern version of the hula
Halau - Long house for canoes or hula instruction; hula school
Ho`i - exit (dancers can chant or have a song as they exit)
Ipuheke - gourd instrument without a top
Kahiko - traditional version of the hula
Ka`i - entrance (dancers can chant or have a song as they enter)
Kala`au - stick dancing
Kane - man or men
Kumu Hula - hula teacher
Mele - song
Oli - chant
Pahu - drum
Pahu Puniu - thigh drum
Pu'ili - dancing implement made with bamboo
 `Uli`uli - gourd instrument with filled with seeds and topped with colorful feathers
Wahine - woman or women

41st Annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, April 2004
From article by Wanda A.Adams, Asssistant Features Editor, Honolulu Advertiser, by permission of Honolulu Advertiser

“It’s always a little chilly in the evenings at Kanaka'ole Stadium, the barrel-shaped open-air stadium that houses the annual Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition. But this year, some of the chill may come from a breath of change wafting through the Merrie Monarch.
Four first-time halau will compete in the 41st annual competition, three of them led by younger or less tried kumu hula. Five of the seven judging positions have turned over. And, for the TV audience, two new commentators will be introduced, though both of them are intimately acquainted with that scarred plywood stage.
There are, in effect, two Merrie Monarch Hula Festivals: the one on TV and the one in the stadium.
Both take place this week. Both will attract capacity audiences.
But the two are as different as a flower lei and a well-made crochet lei — equally beautiful and much appreciated, but different.
There's the show seen by most of Hawai'i, and many in the world watching via streaming video: three evenings of hula competition broadcast by KITV-4, enlivened by commentary, interviews and producer David Kalama's features on Hawaiian cultural themes.
And there is the actual event, defined by subtle factors most viewers don't even imagine: the solemn, silent and slow entry each evening of the royal court, the pleasant babble of conversation that rises and then is abruptly cut off as the next performance is announced, the world-class people-watching and eavesdropping.
"The one part you cannot capture at home is really the excitement of the audience. And the smell — the flowers, the ferns, the maile. It just takes you to a place where you can envision yourself up in the mountains; the scent just carries through the stadium," says longtime judge Noenoelani Zuttermeister-Lewis.
Watchers at home have all the comforts: pupu, an easy chair, the bathroom just steps away. They record and play back, indulge in their own commentary, channel-flip, make bets on who will win and even, in some households, pass out ballots and try to out-guess the judges.
Then there is the real-life festival in Hilo: a week of rehearsals, the Kanaka'ole 'ohana's extraordinary free Wednesday night ho'ike (hula performance), craft fairs, a Saturday parade, traffic jams, booked-up hotels, overcrowded restaurants, flocks of Japanese hula afficionados and three nights of intense, sense-saturating hula.
But viewers at home may know more about the dances than those on the scene. Because what those in the stadium hear during breaks is ... nothing. They spend the intervals gossiping and playing fashion police, standing in the sloooooow lines for food and the bathroom, buying T-shirts and posters or — as the hour grows late — sitting numbly, overwhelmed by the fragrance of flowers, the mellifluous sound of mele and 'oli and the thrumming of feet against the bare wood stage. 'Okoles grow numb and ache from the famously hard metal folding chairs and bleachers.
And yet who would pass up a chance to experience the real thing? Almost no one, which is why the stadium's 2,700 or so spectator seats sell out months in advance.
The success of the event, says Zuttermeister-Lewis, is the vision of longtime Merrie Monarch executive director Dorothy "Auntie Dottie" Thompson, who last year began to pass some of the duties to her daughter, assistant director Luana Kawelu, due to ill health.
Thompson took a small, obscure event in a town known mainly for its excessive annual rainfall and attraction for tsunami and made it the most prestigious hula event in Hawai'i. She did so, Zuttermeister-Lewis believes, by focusing on the hula and the language, avoiding excess commercialism and seeking the advice of culturally rooted kupuna including Zuttermeister-Lewis's mother, the late kumu hula Kau'i Zuttermeister, as well as Edith Kanaka'ole, 'Iolani Luahine and others.
"She got the blessing of the older generation, and that was the right thing to do," said Zuttermeister-Lewis. "That's what I admire about her. She just does what she believes is the right thing to do, and it is because of her wisdom and her honesty that the halau keep coming back."
Zuttermeister-Lewis says she expects her new job to be easier than the one she played as judge.
"There are many times when people watching don't understand exactly what happened, why we voted the way we did. They think it's favoritism," she said. "All I can say is it's a very hard job. No one can pay you enough to sit in that chair for hours or make up to you all the time you spend reading the information sheets (detailed descriptions of the song, dance, adornments filed by kumu hula in advance). There's a lot of work that goes into this. And nobody who hasn't done it can know how much the halau sacrifice to be there, either."

Vacation guests at our Aloha Vacation Cottages are privileged to have Merrie Monarch Festival videos at their Hawaii vacation cottage for viewing at their convenience. Just watching the videos will be an unforgettable experience.