Prestigious Merrie Monarch hula festival begins this weekend on Hawaii Island


The Merrie Monarch Festival, arguably the world’s most anticipated and prestigious hula competition, kicks off its 52nd year this weekend on Hawaii Island. Venues around Hilo, where the annual event is held, are already prepping for the celebration’s world-class hula competitions, exhibitions, entertainment, craft fairs and Royal Parade through downtown.

The weeklong festival runs from April 5 through 11 this year.

Merrie Monarch honors the legacy of King David Kalakaua, nicknamed the “Merrie Monarch” for his love of the arts, especially music and dance. King David Kalakaua was also a supporter of the revival of oli (traditional chant) and hula (Hawaiian dance), discouraged by missionaries and used by Hawaiians to share and express everything from mythology and history to religion.

The festival began in 1963 to perpetuate, promote and preserve the Hawaiian culture, but it wasn’t until 1971 that its most popular draw—colorful and graceful competitive hula events—was included in event schedules. Three days of competition showcase oli, kahiko (ancient) and auana (modern) hula (this year held Thurs., April 9 through Sat., April 11). In preparation for the festival’s competitions, hula halau (dance troupes) practice all year and an invitation to perform is considered a great honor.

If you’re in Hilo, there are plenty of events to keep you busy all week. If you’re in the Islands but can’t make it to Merrie Monarch in person, you can watch many of the festival’s events on local channel KFVE. The Honolulu-based TV station will also live stream Merrie Monarch’s three main hula competitions so you can catch them from anywhere in the world. Here’s the week’s schedule (note all times are in Hawaii Standard Time (HST)):

Photo: Merrie Monarch.


Each night’s competition will start at 6 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (HST). That’s midnight on the U.S. East Coast and 9 p.m. on the West Coast. Competitions are scheduled to run for at least six hours. Competitive events will be re-televised the following day on local TV (KFVE) only. Click here to watch the events as they happen via live stream.

Miss Aloha Hula
Thurs., April 9 • live stream and live TV broadcast: 6 p.m. til 12 a.m. • re-televised on Fri., April 10 from 11 a.m. til 5 p.m.: Soloist performers perform oli, hula kahiko and hula auana for the title of Miss Aloha Hula. 

Group Hula Kahiko
Fri., April 10 • live stream and live TV broadcast: 6 p.m. til 12:30 a.m. • re-televised on Sat., April 11 from 11 a.m. til 5:30 p.m.: Group performances of ancient hula.

Group Hula Auana & Awards Ceremony
Sat. April 11 • live stream and live TV broadcast: 6 p.m. til 1 a.m. • re-televised on Sun., April 12 from 11 a.m. til 6 p.m.: Group performances of modern hula dance followed by an awards presentation for winners in all categories.


Hoolaulea (celebration)
The opening festival begins at 9 a.m. on Sun., April 5 in the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. The event includes performances from local hula halau.

Mid-day Entertainment
Every festival weekday, live entertainment will be hosted at the Hilo Naniloa Hotel starting at 12 p.m. and at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel starting at 1 p.m.

Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair
This popular arts-and-crafts fair features dozens of local and Hawaiian artisans and live entertainment. The Arts Fair runs Wed.-Fri. from 9 a.m. til 5 p.m. and Sat., April 11 from 9 a.m. til 4 p.m. in the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Hoike (display or exhibit) Performances
A showcase of hula and folk dances from around the Pacific Rim will be held on Wed. at 6 p.m. in the Edith Kanakaole Stadium.

Merrie Monarch Royal Parade
On Sat., April 11, beginning at 10:30 a.m., a festive parade winds its way through downton Hilo via Kilauea Avenue, Keawe Street, Waianuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue. The parade begins and ends on Pauahi Street.

Categories: Culture, Hawai‘i Island