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

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Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinā‘ala performs during the hula kahiko competition at the 2021 Merrie Monarch Festival. (Cody Yamaguchi/Merrie Monarch Festival)

The second night of competition takes place Friday at the 60th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival with groups performing hula kahiko (ancient hula dances).

The competition begins at 6 p.m. at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo. Hawai‘i News Now KFVE, the festival’s official broadcaster, will carry the event live on-air.

Hula kahiko is the traditional form of hula. It is accompanied by oli (chant) and does not use modern instruments such as the ‘ukulele or guitar. Instead, traditional percussion instruments such as rhythm sticks, gourds carved into drums and rattles and bamboo sticks are used. According to The House of Kamakahelei, kahiko was generally performed before 1894.


See below for the list of participating hālau hula and their kumu.

Here’s what else is happening on Friday at the festival:

  • 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 second day of the 2023 Mele Manaka Community Celebration that features 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:

  • “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.

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

  • 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 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.

This year’s participating hālau hula and their kumu for the group competitions:

  • Hālau Lilia Makanoe: Kumu Hula Shelsea Lilia Ai.
  • Hālau Nā Mamo O Pu‘uanahulu: Nā Kumu Hula William Kahakuleilehua Haunu‘u “Sonny” Ching and Lōpaka Igarta-De Vera.
  • Keolalaulani Hālau ‘Ōlapa O Laka: Kumu Hula Keolalaulani Dalire.
  • Hālau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniākea: Kumu Hula Kapua Dalire-Moe.
  • Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima: Kumu Hula Māpuana De Silva.
  • Hālau Keolakapuokalani: Kumu Hula Drake Keolakapu Dudoit Delaforcé.
  • Hālau Kiawekūpono O Ka Ua: Kumu Hula Ulukoa Duhaylonsod.
  • Hālau Hula ‘O Kahikilaulani: Kumu Hula Nāhōkūokalani Gaspang.
  • Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka: Kumu Hula Nāpua Greig.
  • Hālau Hula Kauluokalā: Kumu Hula Uluwehi Guerrero.
  • Keʻala ʻO Kamailelauliʻiliʻi: Kumu Hula Kamaile Hamada.
  • Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leināʻala: Kumu Hula Leinā‘ala Pavao Jardin.
  • Hālau Ka Lehua Pua Kamaʻehu: Nā Kumu Hula Kasie Puahala Kaleohano and Brandi Nohelani Barrett.
  • Hula Hālau ‘O Kamuela: Nā Kumu Hula Kau‘ionālani Kamana‘o and Kunewa Mook.
  • Hālau Hiʻiakaināmakalehua: Nā Kumu Hula Robert Ke‘ano Ka‘upu IV and Lono Padilla.
  • Hālau O Ka Hanu Lehua: Kumu Hula Carlson Kamaka Kukona III.
  • Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe: Nā Kumu Hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes.
  • Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi: Nā Kumu Hula Haunani and ʻIliahi Paredes.
  • Kawaiʻulaokalā: Kumu Hula Keliʻihoʻomalu Puchalski.
  • Hālau Hula O Kauhionāmauna: Kumu Hula Theresa Kauhionāmauna Ramento Tehiva.
  • Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka Lā: Kumu Hula Kaleo Trinidad.
  • Hālau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine: Kumu Hula Ka‘ilihiwa Vaughan-Darval.
  • Hālau Kalaʻakeakauikawēkiu: Kumu Hula Kenneth Dean Alohapumehanaokala Victor.

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