Forty-six years ago the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce launched what has since become the world’s premier forum for people of all ages to display their skills and knowledge of the art of ancient and modern hula.
The annual Merrie Monarch Festival inthe town of Hilo on the Big Island has created a renaissance of the Hawaiian culture that is being passed on from generation to generation. The week-long festival includes art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, performances, a parade that emphasizes the cultures of Hawaii, and a three-day hula competition that has received worldwide recognition for its historic and cultural significance. If you plan to be vacationing on the Big Island (or anywhere in Hawaii for that matter), and if you think you’d enjoy authentic hula performed beautifully by dedicated dancers, you should try to work the festival into your plans. The week dedicated to the festival is Sunday, April 12, 2009 through Saturday, April 18, 2009.
It’s a really big deal. In preparation for the Merrie Monarch Festival, hula studios and instructors in Hawaii and on the U.S. Mainland hold classes, workshops and seminars all year long to teach the art of hula, the meaning of Hawaiian chants and songs, the Hawaiian language, the making of Hawaiian clothing and crafts, and the history of the Hawaiian people.
Proceeds from the festival support educational scholarships, workshops, seminars, symposiums and the continuation of the festival.
The weeklong festivities begin with a Hoolaulea (music festival) on Coconut Island on Easter Sunday and continue all week with free noonday entertainment at the Hawaii Naniloa Resort and the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel on Banyan Drive. On Wednesday, there is a free exhibition night at the Edith Kanakaole Tennis Stadium that begins at 6:00 p.m. Thursday is the solo Miss Aloha Hula Competition, Friday and Saturday feature the group Kahiko (ancient) and Auana (modern) hula competitions. There are arts and craft fairs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at several locations and the big Merrie Monarch parade winds through downtown Hilo beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Except for the hula competition, the events are free.