Many not laughing at radio joke about Merrie Monarch Festival - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Many not laughing at radio joke about Merrie Monarch hula festival

Frank B. Shaner Frank B. Shaner
Luana Kawelu Luana Kawelu

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An April Fool's Day joke on KUMU-FM that the upcoming Merrie Monarch Festival was canceled because of the recent deaths of three hula legends, left many in Hawaii dismayed Thursday morning.

It didn't take long for the Hawaii News Now newsroom to get flooded with phone calls. Many wanted confirmation that Merrie Monarch was canceled, which it wasn't. And many more were furious with what they called an insensitive joke

"Listen, it's April Fool's Day you can talk about anything and fool. It's open territory, that is the way we look at it here.  I mean last year Mandy and I had the Iolani Palace, the Japanese bought the palace and they were going to move it to Japan" said KUMU-FM morning host Frank B. Shaner.

Less than two weeks ago, Hawaii's hula community lost two of their most respected and influential leaders. Kumu hula Ray Fonseca and Auntie Dottie Thompson died within 24 hours of one another.

And just five months ago Uncle George Naope passed away. He and Auntie Dottie are credited with founding the Merrie Monarch Festival, and it was because of their deaths that Shaner joked about the festival being canceled.

News quickly spread to Hilo where preparations are well underway for the festival next week. Residents weren't laughing.

"We've had so many phone calls asking us if it's true, and let me tell you it is not true" said Luana Kawelu, associate director of the festival.

"We are going on with the festival, my mother would want that, and I feel that although it is an April Fool's joke, I think it is very distasteful in light of my mom's recent passing and the passing of Uncle George and Ray as well."

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