East Hawaii News

Plans for 2022 Merrie Monarch Festival Continue to Be Ironed Out

By Nathan Christophel
February 23, 2022, 6:10 PM HST
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Plans for the 2022 Merrie Monarch Festival continue to evolve and a live audience will be watching.

“We are still working through planning and COVID mitigation,” Hawai’i County spokesman Cyrus Johnasen told Big Island Now in an email late Wednesday afternoon.

Johnasen said he thinks members of the community will be allowed in the audience during the prestigious hula competition this year, but couldn’t confirm if that meant others outside participating hālau and festival supporters and sponsors. He also said tickets are already sold out.

“While we are able to welcome some audience members back to Hilo to enjoy spectacular hula live in the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multipurpose Stadium, we have only secured permission to offer a fraction of the tickets we usually sell for the competition,” says a Dec. 1, 2021, post on the festival’s website.

The post adds that the festival is continuing the practice of allotting participating hālau a set amount of tickets as in years past. However, those tickets, along with a smaller number of free tickets for longstanding Merrie Monarch supporters and sponsors, will be the only tickets available.

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“Therefore, we will not be selling tickets to the general public at this time, because we will have reached the seating capacity currently allowed to us,” the post says.

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The county has worked with the festival for the past year trying to figure out the logistics to get Merrie Monarch back to “the event it is supposed to be,” Johnasen said at the beginning of February. Members of Mayor Mitch Roth’s administration has been part of routine planning committee meetings with the Merrie Monarch team.

Johnasen said the county also has approved the return of the festival parade and Ho’ike and is working through planning for both with festival organizers. He couldn’t confirm any further details about either event.

“Your appreciation and love of the hula is profound, and we value your support for the perpetuation of this vital cultural practice,” the Dec. 1 post on the festival website tells the community. “We apologize that we are currently unable to welcome back more of you to experience the Merrie Monarch Festival in person. However, we want to ensure a safe event for our community, kūpuna, participating hālau, staff and volunteers, as well as audience members. We look forward to the time when we can gather more freely, but until then we will proceed with caution, all the while ensuring that we are able to maintain our mission of supporting and promoting hula and Hawaiian culture.”

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This year’s festival is scheduled for the week of April 17-23.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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