HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Merrie Monarch week kicked off today with a special Ho'olaule'a at the Hilo Civic Center. Hawai'i and the rest of the world was welcomed to Hilo for the start of Merrie Monarch today with a special Ho'olaulea [celebration]. The festival kicked off this morning with a traditional kipaepae ceremony, literally translated kipaepae means "the stepping stones into a house".
"This is the first day-- official day of Merrie Monarch -- and we're the first performance so our kuleana [responsibility] was to welcome everybody to the Merrie Monarch week here in Hilo," said Roxane Kapuaimohalaikalani Stewart, a lecturer with the Lawai'a track, I Ola Haloa Hawai'i Lifestyles Program at Hawaii Community College.
Hawaii Community College, working in collaboration with several different schools and programs, organizes and hosts the kipaepae. More than 400 people -- ranging in ages from kindergarten to college professors -- participated in the opening ceremony.
"We're not really sure how many times our children especially will be able to participate-- so why not start them now?" explained Manaiakalani Kalua, an Instructor with I Ola Haloa Hawai'i Lifestyles Program at Hawaii Community College. "They'll be able to say, you know, 'We did this and we were there for a kind of pivotal moment-- the 50th', and hopefully there will be 50 more and they'll still be a part of it."
Today's ho'olaule'a paid special tribute to Aunty Edith Kanaka'ole, who is credited with preserving the Hawaiian culture by incorporating it into higher education.
"She made it a point to go there and bring the traditions, the culture, the language into the college system so that these Hawaiian students when they got there they had the opportunity to learn it," said Pele Kaio, a lecturer with I Ola Haloa Hawai'i Lifestyles Program at Hawaii Community College. "We honor Aunty Edith today because without her, we wouldn't have our program today."
It's that spirit of cultivating tradition and keeping the hula legacy alive that is being celebrated on this 50th Anniversary.
"I love to say Uncle George Na'ope and Aunty Dottie Thompson gave birth to this beautiful baby called Merrie Monarch, but who would've guessed it would grow into such a grand gorgeous child," described Aunty Penny Keli'i-Vredenburg, the Merrie Monarch Festivities Emcee.