HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hālau spend months preparing and practicing for a total of 14 combined minutes of kahiko and ʻauana on the Merrie Monarch Festival stage.
After two nights of amazing dancing, the 51st Anniversary Festival awards were presented just after midnight Sunday.
The performances were excellent, the dancers amazing and the music was performed by some of the best musicians in Hawaiʻi... but one hālau stood out amongst the rest -- taking home two of the top awards at this year's Merrie Monarch Festival.
The kāne of Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka Lā under the direction of Kumu Kaleo Trinidad are the 2014 combined overall, kāne overall, first place kāne ʻauana and second place kāne kahiko winners
"We love each other. We have lots of aloha and I think for us that made all the difference in the world. We've been successful. We've been unsuccessful, but this year there was so much aloha all the way around from beginning to the end," said Trinidad of his Honolulu, Hawaiʻi hālau.
Their ʻauana celebrated the Hawaiian canoe building and navigating traditions, while paying tribute to Hōkūleʻa and the upcoming Worldwide Voyage.
"They have a very beautiful and strong message of global sustainability and the importance of the oceans, and so I was inspired by that so we honored Hōkūleʻa," described kumu Trinidad.
Nā kumu Tracie and Keawe Lopes' ladies of Ka Lā 'Ōnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe are the overall wahine, second place combined overall, first place wahine kahiko and second place wahine ʻauana winners.
"I'm very very humbled tonight and so appreciative that these prestigious -- such wonderful awesome practitioners of our culture -- validated what we did tonight and appreciated what we did. These girls worked so hard," said Kumu Lopes.
Miss Aloha Hula 2014 Kealohilani Serrao dances with the Puʻahuʻula, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu hālau.
"These girls really put their best effort in and we did a lot of talk story sessions and a lot of sharing and a lot of heart-felt discussions along the way -- ups and downs, of course -- but it's for this wonderful festival and we're just so thankful that Aunty Luana and the committee feels that we are worthy to be part of it," kumu Lopes said. "Every halau works hard and we all love hula so I want to acknowledge all our fellow hālau and my friends and say we love you and appreciate all that you do and we're just so thankful."
Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Kula, Maui under the direction of kumu Nāpua Greig placed in every category as well -- third place overall combined, second place overall wahine, third place wahine ʻauana, and second place wahine kahiko.
"These ladies work really hard. It's not easy to execute, but they didn't quit and they have the scratches and bruises to prove it. I think we know that anything worth it is going to be hard work, and we're willing to work hard for hula," said kumu Greig.
Newcomer Kalihi Kai hālau Hiʻiakaināmakalehua didn't place this year, but their first showing was well-received.
"We made our homes, our families, our hālau proud and represented as best as we could," said kumu Kumu Keʻano Kaʻupu IV.
"We definitely made our kumus proud, which is something that is very important to us. We wanted to make sure that we did good by them," said kumu Lono Padilla.
Merrie Monarch Festival President Aunty Luana Kawelu credits the hard work from each hālau and the countless hours of volunteer help for making this -- and every year -- a success.
"It's one more year down and I don't really take a deep breath until after that last song ends and so now I can relax. Tomorrow morning, I come down and break down chairs and start paying bills and start on next year's, but this whole town comes alive. The feeling in there was so great. Tonight everybody sang Hawaiʻi Aloha, which was the first time and that just ended it all so well. Everybody holding hands and singing, I think that made it," Aunty Luana said.