Merrie Monarch Festival 2021 Officially Moving Forward
After months of developing rigorous safety guidelines and a television broadcast plan that will allow for a virtual audience experience, the Merrie Monarch Festival announced that the hula competition will be held this summer.
The event that had been held annually since 1964, but was suspended last year due to the pandemic. In 2020, Festival President Luana Kawelu called off the event weeks before it was to be held in the Spring of 2020.
“The health and wellbeing of all hālau participants and the community overall was our top priority then and continues to be now as we move forward with holding the event this year,” said Kawelu who worked with health professionals and a team of advisors to develop safety guidelines modeled after those used by professional sports teams and associations over the past year. Kawelu continued: “We are grateful to our partners, including representatives from The Queen’s Health Systems, that are lending their time, expertise and resources to help us set up and implement this comprehensive safety plan.”
All hālau participants, festival staff, as well as the television production crew have agreed to follow the guidelines that include undergoing multiple COVID testings, a five day isolation period prior to entering the competition venue for the first time, and daily screenings to continually monitor participants for symptoms.
Kumu Hula Keʻano Kaʻupu of Hālau Hiʻiakaināmakalehua said, “it was a lot to consider given that competition preparation is intense in and of itself. But hula isn’t just an activity we do, it is our way of life and we really wanted to be back in this Merrie Monarch space and community.” Fellow Kumu, Lono Padilla said, “the level of detail and analysis that went into the guidelines and protocols reassured us that this was something we could do safely.”
County of Hawaiʻi Mayor Mitch Roth affirmed the County’s support of the festival saying, “as a dedicated and crucial partner, the County of Hawai‘i continues to work closely with Merrie Monarch Festival President Luana Kawelu, and the Organizing Committee.” Roth specifically acknowledged the plan saying, “I have received, read and approved the comprehensive and robust outline of the extensive protocols and actions.”
As announced back in late November 2020, there will be no live audience but there will be a three-night television broadcast of the competition on Hawaiʻi News Now’s KFVE.
Performances will take place and be judged in Hilo at the Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium on June 24, 25, and 26 and then be broadcasted on KFVE the following week on July 1, 2 and 3 at which time the winners will be announced.
There are a total of 15 hālau participating (listed below) that will present 11 Wahine and eight Kāne performances in both the Kahiko and ʻAuana categories as well as seven Miss Aloha Hula entrants.
Check the festival’s website – merriemonarch.com – and follow their social media platforms as well as Hawaiʻi News Now’s multiple stations and digital platforms for ongoing updates and information.
List of Participating Hālau:
- Hālau Hi‘iakaināmakalehua
- Hālau Hula ‘O Nāpunaheleonāpua
- Hālau Hula Ke ‘Olu Makani O Mauna Loa
- Hālau Hula Olana
- Hālau I Ka Wēkiu
- Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinā‘ala
- Hālau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniākea
- Hālau Kala‘akeakauikawēkiu
- Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi
- Hālau Keolakapuokalani
- Hālau O Ka Hanu Lehua
- Ka Lā ‘Ōnohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘e
- Ke Kai O Kahiki
The Merrie Monarch Festival is a week-long cultural event that began in 1964 and is held in Hilo, Hawaiʻi each spring featuring Hawaiian culture and a premier hula competition. The festival honors Hawaiʻi’s last reigning King, David Kalākaua, who was called the “Merrie Monarch” for his patronage of the arts and is credited with restoring many Hawaiian cultural traditions during his reign, including hula.
In addition to the hula competition, the week-long festivities typically include an invitational arts and crafts fair with some of the most sought after Native Hawaiian artisans and designers, cultural demonstrations, hula exhibitions, and a parade that showcases the many cultures of Hawaiʻi.
From the tens of thousands who attend the festival in Hilo, along with the hundreds of thousands who engage via the live television broadcast of both the Hōʻike and competition nights, lovers of hula from all around the world learn more about the history and culture of Hawaiʻi through the Merrie Monarch Festival. For more detailed information, visit merriemonarch.com.