Merrie Monarch Festival

This week marks the 51st Merrie Monarch Festival, which is an elite hula competition and a HUGE deal in the hula world and also works toward promoting the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. Each year hundreds (thousands?) of dancers, musicians, and their families descend on sleepy Hilo town for a festival that includes three nights of hula competition, an Hawaiian arts fair, free performances by many different hula hālau throughout town, and a parade.

As a student of hula the past few years, I have followed the hula competition online (streaming in the wee hours of the morning on the East Coast). This year I am BEYOND excited to be living near Hilo and getting to experience the Merrie Monarch atmosphere in person. Somewhere along the way I completely spaced and didn’t get tickets to the actual competition ::smacks hand against forehead:: Even so, it’s nice to be able to watch the dancing live from home at a reasonable hour.

Today, I took Tristan to the Merrie Monarch parade. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting. The result was a parade with creative floats, many of which incorporated Hawaiian outrigger and sailing canoes, a range of live entertainment, a celebration of all that the islands offer from astronomy, to language to bio-diesel, and beyond, and all showcased with a distinctly Hawaiian flavor. For a small town, the 2 hour, quality parade took me by surprise. I loved it! Tristan’s favorite part was all the horses. My highlight was seeing Shane and his classmates of the 81st Recruit Class kick off the parade.

Here’s a taste of what we enjoyed this morning:

The Hawaii County Police 81st Recruit Class. Bonus points if you can find Shane. Took me a couple of minutes to find him when they marched by. I swear they all look alike in uniform.

Tristan with his cousin Keli

A Hawaiian event is never complete without the Royal Court.


The newly crowned Miss Aloha Hula – she won the competition on Thursday night and was in the parade today.

Taiko Drummers

I would’ve liked marching band a lot more in high school if we had hula dancers for our color guard and aloha shirts instead of hot wool/poly-blend uniforms with dorky hats! [For my Mason friends: the band director wearing the red pants and yellow blazer totally made me think of Doc Nix]

We even got a Macy’s balloon! Watch out New York, they might move the Thanksgiving Day parade here! They also passed out 25% off coupons – not bad!

One of many paʻu riders in the parade, she was representing Hawaiʻi island. There were riders representing all 8 islands.



This rover just arrived in Hawaiʻi for use by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems. If you ask me, it looks like a really fun remote-controlled car to drive. I was totally jealous of the guy with the control.

I loved the UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy float. I thought they made good use of recycled Rx bottles and I loved that all the students got into the action.


More paʻu riders from Niʻihau this time. I thought these women with the flowers and famous Niʻihau shell lei were strikingly beautiful.

Despite the weather flitting from rain to sun and back again during the parade, I find myself sunburned tonight. Oops!

Hopefully next year I will be watching the hula competition from Edith Kanakaole Stadium. Now, I must get back to cheering on Hālau Mohala ʻilima in tonight’s ʻauana competition.

ʻA hui hō!


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