Every year, eyes from all around the world focus on the humble town of Hilo for the Merrie Monarch Festival. The event of traditional hula and Hawaiian culture celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, a remarkable feat for something that started so low-key.

Barbershop quartets, coronation pagaents, fireworks and street dancing defined the festival in the early 1960s. That’s when it began, in honor of Hawaiian King David Kalakaua’s love for hula, arts and culture. He earned the nickname, the “Merrie Monarch.”

Event organizers decided to focus more on the Hawaiian culture itself, eventually introducing the hula component into the mix. Today, that particular component is what the Merrie Festival is known for by the community. Dedicated and talented hula performers and kumu (teachers) work up to this particular event every year, hoping to be recognized for their style, grace and ability to uphold the Hawaiian culture to its finest.

Many visitors set their travel plans around this particular festival. They fly into Hilo to check out the Hawaiian craft fairs and Royal Parade before the multi-day hula competition. Now, there’s an app for those who will be sitting in the stands or even watching from home. The app features biographies of the different halau (hula troupes) and kumu hula. It’s also interactive, as spectators may vote for their favorite performances during the show and follow live Tweets on Twitter.

The Merrie Monarch Festival is definitely worth watching, even if you’re thousands of miles away from its island home. Tune in on the television, the web or make a trip here to enjoy this cultural spectacle.


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