Merrie Monarch Parade: It’s All in the Details

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Merrie Monarch Royal Parade 2016. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Missy Kaleohano did not apply for position of Merrie Monarch Royal Parade coordinator. She basically inherited the job the year after she agreed to assist Lei Branco.

“The year after I helped Aunty Lei, she told me, ‘You know what gotta be done—now you do it,'” Kaleohano said. “I am retiring!”

Nine years later, Kaleohano said the biggest task in coordinating the parade is the paperwork. A huge three-ring binder basically becomes the parade bible.

When asked how many hours it takes her to coordinate the parade each year, she looked towards the sky, then replied, “I have no clue!”


While she did not apply for this unpaid position, it is evident that Kaleohano is well-qualified for the position.

Beginning in early November, she begins the task of writing request letters. County and state agencies are asked for everything from road closure permits to orange traffic cones—even ensuring the county public restrooms are stocked with extra toilet paper.

It’s all about the little details.

“In the end, I am always in awe of how the different agencies come together in a spirit of amazing cooperation to make this happen.”

  • The staging area on Bayfront Drive is managed by the many of the former Lehua Jaycee members.
  • Wailoa Art Center opens its doors to our pāʻū units to use as a place to prepare.
  • The gate being opened between the state building and Wailoa Art Center allows the trucks towing horse trailers an easier route to offload and reload the horses.
  • The municipal golf course lends us a golf cart which makes transverse the entire staging location a lot easier.
  • Sixteen potable lua ensure our spectators are cared for.
  • Approximately 50 volunteers on parade day help to ensure a smooth flow.
  • County Parks & Recreation employees work hard to clean the areas and pick up trash.
  • Police provide walkie talkies and extra presence.

This year, there are 75 units either walking or riding on floats. Lining them up is not an easy task and can prove to be a rather unpleasant task at times.

“Everyone wants to be in the first half of the parade,” said Kaleohano. “I often hear the complaint, “We always in the back!”

However, to ensure fairness, there is a log kept each year that can easily be accessed to verify whether or not the complaint is valid. Sometimes the only response Kaleohano is able to provide is, “Sorry, but someone has to be at the end.”

Another task is collecting, compiling and ensuring that the narratives for each unit that will be read by the parade emcees are in the correct order.


An estimated 12,000 will pack the 1.8-mile parade route. Many showing up as early as 5 a.m. to stake a claim on their viewing spot.

The 54th Annual Merrie Monarch Royal Parade begins at 10:30 a.m. today, Saturday, April 22. 

It is one of the festival’s most entertaining and fun events for the entire family.

The parade begins and ends at Pauahi Street and winds through downtown Hilo (Kīlauea Avenue, Keawe Street, Waiānuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue).


Saturday, April 22, 6 p.m.
Group Hula ʻAuana & Awards
Hālau hula perform modern style dances with an awards presentation for all group winners.
Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium


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