What’s happening at the Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday?

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Hālau Keolakapuokalani from Oʻahu perform during Hōike Night in 2019. (Merrie Monarch Festival)

The 60th Merrie Monarch Festival officially kicks off today with Hōʻike Night, featuring non-competitive hula performances.

It begins at 6 p.m. at the Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium, 350 Kalanikoa St. in Hilo.

This year, generations of kāne and wāhine dancers taught by the late Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho will take the stage to honor “Uncle Johnny.” He died at age 81 on April 3, 2022, leaving behind a legacy that will be passed on to future generations.

Heiva Nui – Kevin and ‘Auli’i Kama during Hōʻike Night in 2022. (Bruce Omori/Merrie Monarch Festival)

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • The official Merrie Monarch Arts and Crafts Fair at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and Butler Buildings gets underway, running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fair showcases and supports Hawai’i artisans and creators, featuring more than 150 of the state’s best. Admission is free and official festival apparel, posters and programs will be available for purchase.
  • Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s ongoing ʻIke Hana Noʻeau (Experience the Skillful Art) series will feature lei hulu, or feather lei making, 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.
  • The Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo will showcase daily Hawaiian music and hula performances. Additionally, the Mākeke (market) will be 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 Hilo Hawaiian Hotel will host its annual Merrie Monarch Craft Fair 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 from 1 to 2 p.m. An Alu Like Kūpuna Table will have lei making, hula and kanikapila from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Lyman Museum in Downtown Hilo is putting on a special online archive exhibit called “The Renewal of Hula.” The museum preserves many hula-related photos and is also open for in-person visits from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission for Hawai‘i residents is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children ages 6 to 17 years old. University students pay $3. Prices for out-of-state visitors is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $2 for children.
  • The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will present a variety of cultural workshops and educational panels at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in Downtown Hilo. Today, they have: Ulana Lauhala (weaving pandanus leaves) Workshop 1 from 10 to 11 a.m. ‘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 will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • The Mokupāpapa Discovery Center also presents the “History of Kalākaua,” from 1 to 3 p.m. 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. The Merrie Monarch festival was named after him.

And the ‘Imiloa Astronmy Center is hosting several Merrie Monarch enrichment programs at its Moanahōkū Hall, including these two events on Wednesday.

  • “Pahu: Historical Collections, Artistic Continuance”: 10 to 11:30 a.m.; 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.

For the complete list of official Merrie Monarch Festival events, click here.


For the complete list of unofficial list of happenings for the Merrie Monarch Festival, click here.

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