Support for Maui abounded during competition nights at the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival

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Intermission on ‘auana night at Merrie Monarch Festival 2024. (Tiffany DeMasters)

The air was cold Saturday night as it breezed through the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multipurpose Stadium on the final night of the Merrie Monarch Hula competition.

Shades of pink abounded in honor of Maui, from the stage skirt to competition costumes to festival staff sporting the color in their Aloha wear. Even Maui’s flower, the lokelani rose, was adorning many of the competitors on ‘auana night.

The 61st annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival was last week with the annual competition Thursday through Saturday. Hālau from across the state and California were invited to perform.

Some of the performances were in honor of Lāhainā, following the devastating wildfire last August that decimated the old Hawaiian fishing village and left at least 100 people dead.


No one spoke about the disaster on Saturday. There was only love and respect for the community and its sacred places.

“That’s what’s unique for this year,” said festival organizer Kathleen Kawelu. “We don’t want them (our cousins in Maui) to be forgotten.”

Spectator Sherry Kahawai‘i from Lā‘ie, O‘ahu, said it was an emotional night seeing all the representation from different hālau for Maui. She was also excited to support her cousin, Kumu La‘akea Perry, who brought his hālau Ke Kai O Kahiki from Maui to compete.

The competition concluded at around 11:30 p.m. Before the announcement of awards, all Kumu Hula were invited to the stage to be recognized. With musicians striking up in song, some of the kumu started dancing, which was met with thunderous cheers.

Kumu Hula recognized on Merrie Monarch stage at the end of the competition on April 6, 2024. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

The overall winner was Ka Lā ‘Ōnohi Mai O Ha‘eha’e, under the direction of Kumu Tracie and Keawe Lopes. This is Tracie Lopes’ 30th year at Merrie Monarch.

This is the second year in a row the O‘ahu group has won overall and the fourth year in a row their soloist has claimed the Miss Aloha Hula title, who happened to be the Kumu’s daughter. Lopes said she also had a Miss Aloha Hula in 2014.

“Every year is special,” Lopes said, adding they learn something new each festival and the students grow.

Lopes had two daughters in her line this year. As a mother and teacher, she said it’s amazing for her to watch them perform at Merrie Monarch.


“I know exactly what it feels like to be their age and dance on the stage, and I hope that it’s just as enjoyable and memorable as it was for me,” Lopes said.

Lopes said the hālau has the goal to just do their best.

“The main thing though is that we are happy with what we put on the stage,” the kumu said. “And I think that’s the bottom line, and the goal of every kumu is to be happy with what their students do.”

The festival closed after midnight with everyone in the stadium joining hands and singing “Hawai‘i Aloha.”

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