Merrie Monarch

It All Began With One Idea

March 15, 2013, 4:25 PM HST
* Updated March 20, 3:07 PM
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After suffering the after-effects of the 1960 tsunami that hit Hilo town, many wondered how to create new and greater interest in the Hilo area.

Helene Hale became the County of Hawai’i Chairman in1963. With the thought to bring interest back to the east side of Hawai’i Island, she asked George Na’ope for his insight on creating a festival that would make Hilo a visitor destination point.

This idea for the Merrie Monarch Festival was conceived and advanced by George Na’ope and Gene Wilhelm in August 1963.

The idea for the festival was then presented to a group of men representing the Hawai’i Island Chamber of Commerce, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Hawai’i Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Improvement Association and interested individuals in September 1963.

Upon the group vote that accepted the idea of the festival, the date was then set for the following year, April 1964. The Hawai’i Visitors Bureau and the County of Hawai’i and the Hawai’i Island Chamber of Commerce voted to take on the festival as a special project in which they financially funded. The festival was planned to be an annual event to be held the first week after Easter.


By 1971, the Merrie Monarch Festival was recognized as one of the top five festivals in the nation during the month of April. Now in 2013, we celebrate 50 years of a legacy that continues to attract visitors and hula enthusiasts from around the world – in the town of Hilo, where it all began, with one idea.

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