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Every year in Hilo on the Big Island, there a week long prestigious hula competition called the Merrie Monarch Festival. It is the Olympics of hula. This year it will be held from March 30 – April 5th. This is an event not to be missed – assuming you can get a ticket.
Begun forty years ago the major purpose of the festival is the preservation of the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture through education. The festival is considered the world’s premier forum for people of all ages to display their knowledge of the art of ancient and modern hula.
So who is this “Merry Monarch”? It honors King David Kalakaua, who was nicknamed the “Merrie Monarch” for his patronage of the arts. He even has a street named after him in Waikiki. He is credited with restoring many Hawaiian cultural traditions during his reign, including the hula. Kalakaua almost single-handedly restored many of the nearly extinct cultural traditions of the Hawaiian people. These included legends and the hula, which had been forbidden due to the influence of missionaries for over 70 years.
Aside from being very entertaining, the Merrie Monarch Festival has maintained strict standards of authenticity, so the culture of the ancient Hawaiian people is being perpetuated. It is due to King Kalakaua himself that the hula will live on.