Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Merrie Monarch Festival Officially Canceled

March 12, 2020, 3:59 PM HST
* Updated March 12, 6:45 PM
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Hālau Nā Mamo O Puʻuanahulu. (Click to enlarge) PC: Merrie Monarch Facebook

The 57th annual Merrie Monarch Festival — the most renowned celebration of hula in the world, held every year on the Big Island — has been canceled in response to fears surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic.

After serious consideration, organizers and sponsors made the decision in light of safety and health concerns.

“This was such a hard decision to make,” said Merrie Monarch Festivals President Luana Kawelu, “but we could not risk the health and wellbeing of our community, hālau participants, vendors and the thousands of people who attend Merrie Monarch every year. In the end, we believe that keeping people healthy and safe must be the highest priority, and we all need to take on this kuleana in the face of the threat posed by COVID-19.”
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Understanding the need to address hālau and visitor accommodations and transportation, Kawelu added, “please give our airlines and hotels a day or so to sort out details. This is such an undertaking for all of them — their willingness and cooperation to work with us is a saving grace. We will update our own festival information when details become available.”

Chris Tatum, president and CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority, said he respects the decision to cancel the world-renowned event.
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“We feel it’s the right thing to do to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors, especially with all the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tatum said. “HTA has been a longtime supporter of the Merrie Monarch festival and looks forward to the return of this important cultural event in the future.”

Kumu hula Māpuana de Silva of Hālau Mōhala ʻIlima said she 100% supports the decision to cancel.

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“As a Kumu, I am responsible for the wellbeing of my haumāna, their families, and especially of their kūpuna. I believe that cancelling this year’s festival is necessary for the health of our lāhui and the perpetuation of our culture and its intergenerational values,” she said.

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All participating kumu hula and judges have been notified of the cancelation.

“We are so grateful to the County of Hawai‘i, our kumu, haumāna and every supporter of this festival,” said Kawelu.

The Festival was originally scheduled from April 12 to April 18, 2020. It will not be postponed and rescheduled due to the logistics of planning and travel involved for participants and spectators. Instead, organizers said they will strive to pick up where they left off in 2021.

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Eight days prior to Thursday’s announcement, Kawelu told Big Island Now the show would go on. However, she indicated then those plans might change in the future.

“We will follow the recommendations of the State and Health Department officials,” she said. “All of the major festival details have been finalized. We are at the stage of finalizing the little details. I am not sure what is going to happen in the future, but as of right now we are moving forward.”

Merrie Monarch now joins the likes of FESTPAC and the Kona Brewers Festival on the list of events either canceled or postponed as a precaution to halt the spread of COVID-19 throughout the population of Hawai‘i.

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