The Merrie Monarch Festival Turns 50

March 31, 2013, 5:56 PM HST
* Updated September 8, 7:11 PM
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Hilo rain drips from new awnings and overhangs of the renovated Edith Kanaka’ole Multi-Purpose Stadium.

Chairs are set in rows with precision and deliberation. A large stage is set and at varying periods throughout the days, one can spy a lone hula dancer swaying to music unheard by the watcher, but lived by the dancer.

Five decades have passed since the first hula competition took place to renew Native Hawaiian practices, and embolden a marginalized people to rise up and proclaim their quiet pride in their heritage and ancestry.

A resurgence and dedicated effort to increase Hawaiian cultural practices has gained momentum since the time of the very merry King Kalaukaua and Queen Liliuokalani. From today to April 6, the world will watch grace, culture, pride and people filled with aloha doing something they love. The festivities kick off today with a Ho’olaulea and pageant beginning at 6 p.m. at the Hilo Armory.

On Monday, April 1, there’s a King Kalakaua beard look-alike contest at the Mo’oheau Park Bandstand in Downtown Hilo at 5 p.m. There’s a barbershop quintet performing at the same bandstand on Tuesday at 5 p.m.


Throughout the week from Monday through Friday, the Volcanoes Naniloa Resort has live entertainment from noon. The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel also has live entertainment and activities from 1 p.m. throughout the week.


There’s an arts and crafts fair on Wednesday through Saturday. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Hula performances at the Edith Kanakaole Stadium begin from Wednesday with Ho’ike night at 5:45 p.m. While in past years the Ho`ike was free, this year tickets were required which were sold out in January.

The main competition which includes Miss Aloha Hula on Thursday, kahiko or ancient hula on Friday and `auana or modern hula on Saturday also begin at 5:45 p.m.


The Merrie Monarch parade will be held in downtown Hilo beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

For more information visit Tickets are tricky as the event is a sell-out. In fact, more than luck is needed to get into competition nights. However, events such as the parade, ho’olaule’a, pageant, beard contest and more are open to the public.

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