Top 10 things to do on Big Island for week of April 4-10: Merrie Monarch Festival continues; several other events abound

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If you haven’t yet made it to any events during the 61st annual Merrie Monarch Festival, a weeklong celebration of hula and everything Hawaiian, don’t fret.

There’s still time and plenty to do, even if you didn’t get a ticket for the hula competition part of the festival that begins at 6 p.m. today with the Miss Aloha Hula contest, followed at 6 p.m. Friday with group hula kahiko and concluding with group hula ‘auana and the awards ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Festival events continue or are still planned, including the Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts and Crafts Fair and the Merrie Monarch Royal Parade.

They are part of the top 10 things to do on the Big Island for April 4-10.

No. 1 — Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts and Crafts Fair (Hilo, April 4-6)

Big Island Now file photo by Nathan Christophel

This annual favorite continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, located at 323 Manono St., and adjacent Butler Buildings.


More than 150 of Hawai‘i’s finest artisans are featured during the arts and crafts fair, along with local food trucks, daily entertainment by local hālau and demonstrations including pa‘u drum making, kapa and more.

Admission is free. Click here for the schedule of entertainment and craft fair locations.

No. 2 — Merrie Monarch enrichment programs (Hilo, April 4-5)

Image from ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center website

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place, is excited to announce even more incredible programs during this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival.

Enjoy numerous workshops, extraordinary hula and mele, plus enthralling films, presentations and panel discussions with special guests. Tickets are now on sale for the programs, which will be at various times throughout the three days.


For our full lineup and to buy tickets, click here.

No. 3 — Merrie Monarch Royal Parade (Hilo, April 6)

Big island Now file photo

One of the festival’s most entertaining and fun events for the entire family, the parade at 10:30 a.m. in downtown Hilo begins and ends at Pauahi Street, marching down through downtown Hilo along Kilauea Avenue, Keawe Street, Waiānuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue.

Those who attend will see a sampling of the sights and sounds, guests, performers and more from this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival.

The following roads will be closed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 6 for the parade: Kamehameha Avenue between Waiānuenue Avenue and Suisan Bridge, Pauahi Street, Kīlauea Avenue between Pauahi and Ponahawai Street, Keawe Street and Waiānuenue.

* * * * * * * *


Merrie Monarch isn’t the only show in town this week. As always, the Big Island has several other events, activities, workshops and more happening.

Here’s the rest of our top 10 things to do for this week.

No. 4 — “Voices of Belonging and Community Conversations” film series (Waimea, April 4)

Courtesy image

Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy, in partnership with the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, presents this film series that inspires thoughtful dialogue about place, identity and belonging through storytelling.

The fourth and final offering of the series, to be presented at 6:30 p.m. at the Gates Performing Arts Center on the upper campus of Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy, located at 65-1692 Kohala Mountain Road, is a special film screening of “Waterman,” an award-winning and Emmy-nominated documentary co-produced by alumnus and current Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy Board of Trustees member William “Bill” Pratt. The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Pratt. Admission is free.

Five-time Olympic medalist and Native Hawaiian Duke Paoa Kahanamoku shattered records and brought surfing to the world while overcoming a lifetime of personal challenges. “Waterman” explores his journey and legacy as a legendary swimmer, trailblazer and the undisputed father of modern-day surfing.

No. 5 — “Whorl” exhibition (Hilo, April 6-May 31)

Courtesy image

Books and trees metamorphose into sculpture in the latest exhibition at East Hawai‘i Cultural Center, located at 141 Kalakaua St. Is the meaning of a book static? Or does the narrative change with the passage of time, where the book is placed and the impact of natural elements such as weather and insect damage?

Artist Jacqueline Rush Lee invites viewers to consider these questions through her exhibition. An opening reception is planned for 6 p.m. April 5. Lee, a Hawai‘i-based artist originally from Northern Ireland, creates conceptual objects by sculpting books, inserting them into the cavities of trees and allowing nature to warp and desiccate the pages. The result is eerily reminiscent of individual human fingerprints while at the same time suggesting cultural artifacts.

For more information, visit the center’s website, call 961-5711 or visit East Hawai‘i Cultural Center in person. Current gallery and office hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The gallery is also open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Caption information: Site-specific sculptures by Jacqueline Rush Lee. (Courtesy of Jacqueline Rush Lee)

No. 6 — MANA Invitational Art Show (Hilo, through April 25)

Image from the Nā Mākua Original Hawaiian Designs website

This exhibition on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wailoa Center, located at 200 Piopio St., features more than 30 of Hawai‘i’s premier artists sharing their mana‘o and mana with their art.

“The Art of Edwin Kayton” exhibit, showcasing a collection of artwork from through the years by the Big Island’s Edwin Kayton, will be on display at the same time in the center’s Fountain Gallery. For more than 40 years, Kayton has been a master of several mediums, including oils, drawing and sculpture.

Both exhibits are free to view. For more information, click here.

No. 7 — Learn to Play Harmonica workshop (Hilo, April 7)

Image from Facebook

This course, which will be conducted from 1 to 4 p.m. at Gam3Escape, located at 57 Shipman St., will cover history, terminology and how to play the harmonica. Participants will work within a booklet that will take them through a lifetime of practice techniques by instructor Sean “Wailin” O’Phelan. They also will learn single notes, bends, chords, songs and much more.

Guest guitarist, pianist and songwriter Dennis Alstrand will accompany participants on their journey, entertaining and answering questions for those who play other instruments. There also will be an optional jam session at the end of the workshop, giving each student a chance to play on a mic and show off their new skill.

The workshop is appropriate for ages 8 and older. Kids younger than 18 years old will need an adult present. Bring one friend for free. Harmonica players of all skill levels are welcome to attend. Limited to 15 students. Free harmonica and all materials included in the $50 registration fee. Register through PayPal at [email protected]. For more information or questions, call 808-345-0398.

No. 8 — 31st annual Hawai‘i Arts, Crafts & Food Festival (Hilo, April 4-6)

Screenshot from Hawai‘i Arts, Crafts & Food Festival website

This festival, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Nani Mau Gardens, located at 421 Makalika St., is an island tradition that celebrates the artistic and cultural heritage of Hawai‘i’s diverse people and environment. It is conducted each year during the annual Merrie Monarch Festival and showcases the finest artisans, crafters and food vendors throughout the state.

There will be prize giveaways, music, entertainment, hula performances, demonstrations and onolicious foods. The 3-day event is an unforgettable cultural, fun-filled event.

For more information, click here.

No. 9 — School of Rock Battle of the Bands (Hilo, April 5)

Image from Facebook

The second all-ages, old-school battle of the bands is getting dialed, with last year’s winners Two Years Apart headlining. The battle takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. at Kukuau Studio, located at 43-D Kukuau St.

Each band will feature a 4-song set of originals or covers, with many chances to win prizes. Professional musicians and producers will judge the bands on stage presence, originality, musicality, dynamics, song selection, audience interaction, individual performances and band continuity.

Music will be live, with no backing tracks, and there will be a dry run, sound check and pizza party April 4 for the participating bands. Most backline needs will be provided.

Cost to attend is $10 at the door. Students with a valid student ID are free. For more information, visit the Kukuau Studio website.

No. 10 — The Search for Extraterrestrial Life, From a Reporter’s Perspective (Waimea, April 10)

Image from Facebook

For millennia, humans have wondered whether life exists beyond Earth. During the past half-century or so, these musings have evolved from fantasy and speculation into a legitimate scientific endeavor, guided largely by the Drake Equation — a formula that estimates the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.

Nadia Drake, a science reporter, will discuss the factors in the Drake Equation, how science reporters choose and construct stories and the science media’s role in communicating discoveries about the search for extraterrestrial life during this Astronomy Talk hosted by W. M. Keck Observatory from 6 to 7 p.m. at Kahilu Theatre, located at 1198 Lindsey Road.

The event is free to attend. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. For questions, contact Mari-Ela Chock via email at [email protected]. To learn more, click here.

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