Merrie Monarch Week: The ‘unofficial’ events

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Merrie Monarch Festival entertainment in April 2019 at the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo. This is Hālau Nā Pua O Uluhaimalama, Emery Aceret. (Big Island Now file photo)

The action during the upcoming 60th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo on the Big Island isn’t just confined to the official events at Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium and Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Venues throughout Hilo and East Hawai‘i will feature hula, music, arts and crafts, Hawaiian cultural events and other entertainment during Merrie Monarch Week, which runs from April 9 through 15.

Here’s the “unofficial” events of the festival:

Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo

The Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo will honor the 60th anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Festival with six consecutive days of celebration from April 10-15, including a concert featuring Hawaiian vocalist Amy Hānaialiʻi.

The hotel will showcase daily Hawaiian music and hula performances. Additionally, the Mākeke will be held April 12-14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the hotel’s event spaces, including the Palm Lounge, Ho’omalimali, Sandalwood and the Crown Room. A treasure trove of handmade Hawaiian products, including apparel and jewelry, will be for sale. The marketplace and daily performances are open to the public and admission is free.


Pūpū, cocktails, wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages also will be available for purchase. Night owls can continue the festivities at the Hotel’s lobby bar until midnight each day.

On April 11, in the Crown Room, Hānaialiʻi’s exclusive performance will include a newly recorded rendition of “Pālehua,” celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of Hawaiʻi’s most beloved songs. Concert tickets start at $69 and early reservation is encouraged. The performance will begin at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m. To book tickets, click here.

Complimentary self-parking is located across the street from the hotel at the Grand Naniloa Golf Course parking lot.

To see a full schedule of events or for more information, visit the hotel’s website or call 808-969-3333.

A vendor booth at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel’s Merrie Monarch Craft Fair in 2022. (Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

The hotel will host its annual Merrie Monarch Craft Fair April 12-15, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the Moku‘ola Ballroom, downstairs from the main lobby.


The craft fair will feature more than 30 vendors and food concessions. The hotel also will feature hula performances by local hālau April 10-14, from 1 to 2 p.m. An Alu Like Kūpuna Table will have lei making, hula and kanikapila April 12-15, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The hotel’s Wai’oli Lounge will be showing the Merrie Monarch Festival competition on TV from 9:30 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday. It also will open early each day at 2:30 p.m.

For more information, call the hotel at 808-935-9361.

SCP Hilo Hotel

In partnership with Hawai‘i Rise Foundation, Keaukaha General Store and Kimié Miner’s Haku Collective, the SCP Hilo Hotel, formerly the Hilo Seaside Hotel, is hosting the 2023 Mele Manaka Community Celebration. The three-day event will celebrate Hawaiian culture and the arts with live music, workshops and giveaways.

The event is open to the public April 13-15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is a cultural extension to the Merrie Monarch Festival.


Workshops will include lei making, T-shirt printing, coconut hats, lauhala weaving, poi pounding, fishing pole making and more, all taught by local artists and community leaders. The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Hawai‘i Rise Foundation, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Community First Hawai‘i will offer informational booths.

Aspiring young artists from 14 to 22 years old can apply for enrollment in Miner’s new music and mental health mentorship series called, Nā Leo (The Voices) by Haku Collective, set for April 21 and 22 on the Big Island.

Live entertainment will begin at 9 a.m. each day, emceed by Hilo’s own Alaka‘i Paleka. For more information, including a full schedule of entertainment, visit the hotel’s website.

An ipu heke. (Photo from the Prince Kūhiō Plaza website)

Prince Kūhiō Plaza

The Hilo mall’s annual Merrie Monarch Craft Fair will be held April 13-15, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The craft fair features more than 60 vendors offering a variety of wares and other items for purchase. You can also get official Merrie Monarch merchandise at a booth at the mall’s food court entrance. For a list of vendors, click here.

Nani Mau Gardens

The 30th annual Hawai‘i Arts, Crafts and Food Festival is planned for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily Thursday through Saturday, April 13-15, at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo. Admission is free. The festival is a celebration of the artistic and cultural heritage of Hawai‘i, its people and environment. For additional information or questions, click here, email to [email protected] or call 808-981-0518.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

‘Imiloa is hosting several Merrie Monarch enrichment programs April 12-14 in the center’s Moanahōkū Hall:

  • “Pahu: Historical Collections, Artistic Continuance”: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday; tickets are $15 for members, $25 for non-members. Explore the legacy and future of Hawaiian drums with artisan Kana‘e Keawe and British Museum curator Dr. Alice Christophe.
  • “Lovely Hula Girl: The Hapa Haole Hula Era with Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine and Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima”: 1 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday; tickets are $15 for members, $25 for non-members. Learn a hapa haole hula from renowned kumu hula and honored judge of the 2023 Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition Vicky Holt Takamine.
  • Lei wili workshop with Lehua Hauaniʻo: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday; tickets are $40 for members, $55 for non-members. Explore your creativity and try your hand at lei making in the wili style with Hawaiian artist Hauaniʻo.
  • Project Kuleana, Ke Mele Nei musical presentation: 1 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday; tickets are $15 for members, $25 for non-members. Talk story and enjoy a musical presentation from Project Kuleana ( and Friends. Participants also will get an exclusive look at the newest Project Kuleana music video and can listen in on some “behind the scenes” stories.
  • Lauhala presentation and workshop with Kaʻohu Seto: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday; tickets are $40 for members, $55 for non-members. Create a lauhala bracelet with lauhala artisan Kaʻohu Seto.
  • “Unulau: Hula presentation and performance”: 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday; tickets are $15 for members, $25 for non-members. Unulau is a hālau hula under the direction of Kumu Hula Pele Kaio. The hālau will share its intimate journeys in hula through talk-story, sharing of mele and hula and a deep dive into how its members are evolving their relationships to hula and growing because of it.

For more information or to register for the enrichment programs, click here.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. (File photo by Damon Tucker)

Palace Theater

“Aloha ‘Āina — Films for Future Generations” will be April 9, beginning at 2:30 p.m. It will feature several short programs focused on the ‘āina and Hawaiian culture. Doors open at 2 p.m. and concessions will be available. Tickets cost $5, and donations to HŌ’Ā will be accepted for community planting efforts at Hāmākua Harvest. For more information, including the films that will be shown, or to purchase tickets, click here.

The historic theater in Downtown Hilo also will host the Hānau Hou (Rebirth) Arts and Fashion Show on April 10, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event will feature live music, stories and fashion artistry. General admission is $5; tickets are available now. A free trunk show also will be held from 3 to 5 p.m., featuring local designers. For more information and a full list of designers, follow Hānau Hou on Instagram @hanauhouarts.

Palace Theater in Downtown Hilo. (File photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

Lyman Museum

The museum in Downtown Hilo is putting on a special online archive exhibit called “The Renewal of Hula.” The museum is also open for in-person visits 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children ages 6 to 17 years old. University students pay $3, and prices for those from out of state are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $2 for children.

The Lyman Museum preserves many hula-related photos. To see more, the archives is open for research by appointment. For more information, click here.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

The national park’s ongoing ʻIke Hana Noʻeau “Experience the Skillful Art” series will feature lei hulu, or feather lei making, on April 12, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the ʻŌhiʻa Wing at Kīlauea Visitor Center. During this cultural and craft event, renowned artist Kilohana Domingo will demonstrate his mastery of this intricate art and display his beautiful lei hulu. Free to attend, but park entrance fees apply.

Mokupāpapa Discovery Center

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will present a variety of cultural workshops and educational panels April 12-14 at the center in Downtown Hilo. The presentations are inspired by the legacy of King Kalākaua and his contributions toward the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture and advocacy for Native Hawaiian rights.

  • Ulana Lauhala Workshop 1: 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday. ‘Aha Puhala O Puna will share about the various types of hala, preparations to start any ulana project and lead the group in making a lauhala bracelet.
  • Ulana Lauhala Workshop 2: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
  • “History of Kalākaua” presentation: 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday. This panel discussion will explore the history of King Kalākaua and his advocacy for hula, ‘ike kūpuna and other traditional and customary rights, as well as looking at civic engagement and how Native Hawaiian rights benefit all who call Hawai’i home.
  • Kaulana mahina (Hawaiian moon calendar) workshop: 10 a.m. to noon Thursday. Haunani Miyasato will share about pō mahina (moon phases), malama (lunar months), kaulana mahina in relation to mea kanu (planting) and hula plants such as ‘ōlena (turmeric), lā‘ī (tī), ‘ōhi‘a lehua and palapalai (a fern).
  • “Kumu Kānāwai Pre- and Post-Hawaiian Kingdom” panel discussion: 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday. The panel will discuss the evolution of the Kumu Kānāwai, which translates to “fundamental law”; how people benefit from this today; and how it is incorporated it into the lives of kānaka maoli (native person).
  • “Waiwai ka ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i” panel discussion: 10 a.m. to noon Friday. The next generation of Hawaiian language speakers discuss the value of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i today and its vital role in improving economic development, housing, heath care, education, stewardship and overall community development.
  • Hula workshop: 2 to 4 p.m. Friday. Kumu hula Kaenaaloha Hopkins will share her hula mo‘okū‘auhau and a discussion about Aunty Maiki Aiu’s definition of hula as the Hawaiian dance expressing what people see, hear, smell, taste, touch and feel. Participants also will learn a hula.

For more information or to register for the events, click here. Panel discussions and presentations will also be livestreamed on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Facebook page. Seating at the live discussion panels is available on a first come, first served basis.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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