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

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Today, the competition begins at the 60th Merrie Monarch Festival, with 12 candidates vying for Miss Aloha Hula.

The competition begins at 6 p.m. at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo. Individual dancers perform hula kahiko (ancient style dances), hula ʻauana (modern style dances) and oli (chant).

Aloha Dalire dances during the 50th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival in 2013. Dalire was the very first Miss Hula, which is now called Miss Aloha Hula, in 1971. (Courtesy: Merrie Monarch Festival)

The contestants and their kumu hula:

  • Meleana Kamalani Mirafuentes: Nā Kumu Hula William Kahakuleilehua Haunuʻu “Sonny” Ching and Lōpaka Igarta-De Vera.
  • Eva Rose Keaoʻōpuaikalaʻi Espinoza: Kumu Hula Keolalaulani Dalire.
  • Jazmine Nohealani Adams-Clarke: Kumu Hula Kapua Dalire-Moe.
  • Pōhaikealoha Olikolani Artates: Kumu Hula Nāpua Greig.
  • Breeze Ann Kalehuaonālani Vidinha Pavao: Kumu Hula Leināʻala Pavao Jardin.
  • Tehani Kaleohoneonālani Barrett: Nā Kumu Hula Kasie Puahala Kaleohano and Brandi Nohelani Barrett.
  • Je’ani-Jade Kalamaolaikapohakea Pavao: Nā Kumu Hula Kunewa Mook and Kau‘ionālani Kamana‘o.
  • Jill-Lyan Makanaokalani Mae-Ling Mamizuka: Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukona.
  • Agnes Renee Leihiwahiwaikapolionāmakua Thronas Brown: Nā Kumu Hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes.
  • Karlee Pōhaikealoha Rita Chong Kee: Nā Kumu Hula Haunani and ‘Iliahi Paredes.
  • Tayla-Nohealeimamo Kamaehukauikapono Taʻuhere Vaughan-Darval: Kumu Hula Kaʻilihiwa Vaughan-Darval.
  • Pōlaʻa Kalaniʻelima Yim: Kumu Hula Kenneth Dean Alohapumehanaokalā Victor.

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • The official Merrie Monarch Arts and Crafts Fair at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and Butler Buildings continues, 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.
  • 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 Hilo Hawaiian Hotel’s Wai’oli Lounge will be showing the Merrie Monarch Festival competition on TV from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. It also will open early at 2:30 p.m.
  • The Prince Kūhiō Plaza is hosting a craft fair 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 is hosting its 30th annual Arts, Crafts and Food Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 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.
  • The SCP Hilo Hotel, formerly the Hilo Seaside Hotel at 126 Banyan Way, is hosting the first day of the 2023 Mele Manaka Community Celebration that has live music, workshops and giveaways. The event that celebrates Hawaiian culture runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  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 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, it presents “Kumu Kānāwai Pre- and Post-Hawaiian Kingdom” panel discussion, 1 to 3 p.m. 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 into the lives of kānaka maoli (native person). 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.

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

  • Lei wili workshop with Lehua Hauaniʻo: 10 to 11:30 a.m.; 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.; tickets are $15 for members, $25 for non-members. Talk story and enjoy a musical presentation from Project Kuleana (https://oiwi.tv/projectkuleana2/) 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.

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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