The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival History and Activities

The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival: History & Activities

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a yearly event in Hilo, Hawaii, celebrating King David Kalakaua’s legacy. Halau hula from near and far come together to partake in the festivities, making it the most esteemed hula competition. The event officially kicks off on Easter Sunday and continues for the following six days, with the competitions occurring on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It’s an unforgettable gathering, rich in culture and tradition.

Origins, History and Timeline

Dedicated to King David Kalakaua, a passionate promoter of the arts, the Merrie Monarch Festival was named in honor of his affectionate nickname. Established in 1963 by Helene Hale to draw tourists to Hawaii Island, the festival offered a range of activities and competitions, such as a look-alike King Kalakaua beard contest, a relay race, and the Holoku Ball.

Timeline of the Merrie Monarch Festival.

  • 1971: Under the direction of Thompson, the Merrie Monarch Festival shifted its goals and objectives to replicate the ideals of King Kalakaua, who sought to revitalize the Hawaiian people and culture.
  •  1971: Louise Kaleiki, Iolani Luahine, Lokalia Montgomery, Puanani Alama, “Aunty,” Dottie, and “Uncle” George introduced a hula competition.
  •  1976: Men are allowed to compete in the hula competition.
  •  1978: The Merrie Monarch Festival moves to the Honolulu Tennis Stadium (renamed the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium).
  •  1980: A third night of competition was added due to increased Miss Aloha Hula competition entrants.
  •  1981: The Festival began to be televised due to high ticket demand.
  •  2010: Luana Kawelu took over the role of Festival President.
  •  2013: The Merrie Monarch Festival celebrates 50 years of existence.
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Modern Festival Activities

The Merrie Monarch Festival is an annual springtime tradition in Hawaii. Every Easter Sunday through Saturday evening, the Hawaiian people celebrate their culture and heritage with various activities. 

The festivities begin with the royal court – King David Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani are represented by two individuals chosen for their maturity and pride in Hawaiian culture.

One of the highlights of the event is the Miss Aloha Hula competition. This prestigious honor is bestowed upon one wahine solo performer who exhibits mastery in hula kahiko (ancient style) and hula’ hula’ auana (modern style). 

Group Hula Kahiko and Auana also take place, where teams of male and female dancers compete in ancient and modern styles of hula. On Saturday night, awards are announced based on kai, oli, mele, hoi, interpretation, expression, and precision.

You won’twon’t want to miss this unique celebration of Hawaii’s history and customs – it only comes around once a year!

Cultural Impact

The Merrie Monarch Festival has had a tremendous impact on Hawaiian culture, with four key goals; to perpetuate, develop, reach, and enrich it. It has gained worldwide recognition for its cultural significance, and in 1981 it began broadcasting on the local television station KITV. Later, the coverage switched to competitor KFVE, solidifying its presence on TV.

This festival is an incredible opportunity to celebrate the fantastic culture of Hawaii and learn more about its history. 

You can feel the sense of pride in the air as people gather each year to remember their traditional hula dances and songs. Not only does it bring together the community, but it also serves as a reminder of how crucial Hawaiian culture is to Hawaii. It’sIt’s a chance to honor what makes Hawaii so unique – its past, present, and future.