Merrie Monarch: It takes cash to compete

Merrie Monarch: It takes cash to compete

Getting to Hilo for Merrie Monarch is no easy task -- if you want to compete, you need to come up with the cash.  Nineteen halaus travel from O'ahu, Maui and Kaua'i for the festival and three come all the way from California.

Ka Pa Hula O Kauanoe O Wa'ahila has been going to Merrie Monarch since 1993.

"When people watch Merrie Monarch, they see the polished version of it.  Yet, getting there is so, oh my gosh, it takes forever. Fundraising, getting your hulas down, your costumes down, your lei, everything-- it takes so much, but it's so worth it," said 'Ano'ile'a Clemente, who has been dancing with the halau since 1998.

Kumu Maelia Loebenstein Carter estimates it takes about $2,500 a dancer to cover the Festival expenses.

"I joke with the girls.  I'm like you're young, you have two kidneys, give me one -- that's how you're getting to Merrie Monarch," said Kumu Loebenstein Carter.

This year the halau organized a garage sale and hosted a Family Fun Day at the Bishop Museum -- complete with keiki rids and food trucks.  

"Fundraising is a whole deal by itself. You gotta start as soon as you get off stage the year before," described Keahiahi Long, who has been dancing with the halau for 16 years.

Each of the ladies also finds a way to raise money on her own. This will be Mapuana Ma'a's 21st Merrie Monarch -- but this trip is extra special and requires extra cash -- because her daughter will be joining her on stage.

"It's a feeling -- I never thought that would happen, but I guess it's a dream because I've been dancing for so long.  I never thought I'd be dancing this long and in Merrie Monarch, but it's an accomplishment," said Ma'a.

An incredible moment the dancers say wouldn't be possible without support from their family, friends and the public.

"To all the people who support haumana [students] in halau, you have a part of them being there and you have a part of their success because without all of our support, you know, it's like -- it's not just about the halau, it's about the family and the friends, who are the backbone of that halau," explained Kumu Loebenstein Carter.  "Sometimes people think, oh I'm just buying a $10 ticket-- well, I think it means so much more because you have gotten that haumana one step closer to that beautiful package that everybody sees on stage and everything that goes with it. So mahalo to everybody!"

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