Your Primer to the 2023 Merrie Monarch Festival
After three years of pandemic disruptions, the festival is back in full force and celebrating its 60th anniversary. Here’s what you need to know about the festival, which runs from April 9-15.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Merrie Monarch Festival returns in all its glory this year. After a mix of pandemic cancelations and hybrid festivals, competition hula performances are finally open those who snagged coveted general admission tickets.
The event is set to run from April 9-15 in Hilo, on Hawaiʻi Island. Dedicated to perpetuating Hawaiian culture, the Merrie Monarch Festival is a week-long celebration, showcasing traditional crafts and artforms. The pinnacle of the week is the 3-day hula competition held at the Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium. During the prestigious competition, the stadium roars with excitement as exhilarating ʻoli (chants) and mele (songs) imbue the air. This year, 23 hālau hula (hula schools) are participating in the competition with three from the Big Island, 14 from Oʻahu, four from Maui, and one each from Kauaʻi and Washington. The week concludes with the Merrie Monarch Royal Parade, which graces downtown Hilo. Viewers around the world tune into the exciting events happening in the small town of Hilo, and here’s how you can, too. Here’s your events guide to the 60th Merrie Monarch Festival.
Sunday, April 9
This year the festival commences with a hoʻolauleʻa, or ceremony. The hoʻolauleʻa hasn’t been held since 2019. The opening ceremony is open to the public.
Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts and Crafts Fair
Wednesday, April 12-15
The Merrie Monarch not only celebrates hula, but other traditional arts and crafts that have long been central to Hawaiian culture. The craft fair will be held at the Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium and Butler Buildings in Hilo.
Wednesday, April 12
Hōʻike Night is a local favorite, providing the public a chance to enjoy exciting exhibition hula performances at the Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium the night before the competition begins. In 2022, tickets for Hōʻike Night sold out in three hours. Tickets are only $5 and went on sale in February.
Miss Aloha Hula
Thursday, April 13
The competition commences with 12 wāhine (women) vying for the title of Miss Aloha Hula. The world’s best female hula dancers are judged on their ʻoli, hula kahiko (traditional dance) and hula ʻauana (modern dance) as well as their proficiency in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language).
Friday, April 14
Twenty-three hālau hula, split into kāne (men) and wāhine divisions, will compete in the ancient style of hula, known as hula kahiko. Their performances tell stories and legends of the Hawaiian Islands and are accompanied by traditional instruments and chants.
Hula ʻAuana and Awards
Saturday, April 15
In contrast to hula kahiko, hula ʻauana is a more modern take on the traditional artform and is paired with modern stringed instruments. Groups grace the stage in colorful apparel and are adorned in lei. Following the hula ʻauana competition, winners will be announced for all divisions.
How to Watch
Viewers from around the world can tune into the Merrie Monarch Festival, which will be streaming from hawaiinewsnow.com/merriemonarch.
For more information about the Merrie Monarch Festival, visit merriemonarch.com.