Kumu Robert Cazimer's kane of Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehu are the overall winners at the 52nd Annual Merrie Monarch Festival.
A clear crowd favorite during both their kahiko and 'auana numbers, the victory came as a surprise to perhaps no one but the kumu himself.
"I'm used to the fact that we get up to number one and we didn't win. We're just used to that. Every time I hear Halau - fifth place halau, I'm standing up already -- it's not us, I sit down. That's why I sit in the back," Cazimero described with a laugh.
Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehua also took home the kane overall prize and first place men's auana and second place kahiko.
"I feel pretty happy. My happiness is really for the guys that are wearing the same shirt I am. For their patience, their love and for the support that we get. We, like many other schools here, have people who support us and who love us no matter what and that's where the victory lies in this 10 year return," said Cazimero.
Cazimero's kane say the win is even more significant since it coincides with the halau's 40th anniversary.
"40 years in a job, 40 years in a marriage, 40 years in an anything is a long time. For our kumu and to have so many young ones coming up -- it's extra special. It's really a reflection I think of who we come from and where we come from and we will continue to do the things that we've been taught to do," said Manu Boyd, who wasn't allowed to perform this year under a new Festival policy that prohibits kumu hula from competing. Instead, Boyd and other former dancers who've since started their own halau assisted as ho'opa'a for kahiko and musicians for 'auana.
Hula Halau 'O Kamuela placed first overall in the wahine division.
"It's awesome. I am just elated. I'm just excited. I'm happy for the girls. I'm happy for myself and Kau'i. There was a lot of hard work with the kahiko. We did an ipu heke number and to have them move together -- it was amazing how they came across doing it. So, I'm just overwhelmed," said Kumu Kunewa Mook.
It was a big year for the Kalihi and Waimanalo halau, whose own Jasmine Kaleihiwa Dunlap is Miss Aloha Hula 2015.
"We have a lot of girls that it's actually their first year so the fact that we get to share this experience together is such a wonderful one and it brought us to tears and I'm just so excited for the halau and so happy for everybody right now," said Dunlap.
Last year's reigning champions, the men of Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La, won kane kahiko for the first time ever with a hula pahu written by their kumu's teacher, Randy Kamuela Fong.
"It's been one of my goals to strive as hard as we can to just do our very best and when we won I was just completely emotional because it meant so much," said Kumu Kaleo Trinidad.
Halau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine took home first place for wahine 'auana.
"Everytime we get on stage I try to please my kumu and my tradition. I'm just thankful and proud of my students. They deserve to be recognized for their hard work. And just when we're standing here with so many amazing halau - you just never think, it's so very surreal," said Kumu Ka'ilihiwa Vaughan-Darval of the Manoa halau.
Only one point separated many of the halau that placed.
"The best are here, so if you're on stage you're already a winner. To be chosen from the many on the wait list that I have. The caliber of dancing is just so way up there," said Aunty Luana Kawelu, the Merrie Monarch Festival president.
52nd Anniversary 1st place OVERALL w/ highest combined score kane & wahine: Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehua under the direction of Kumu Robert Cazimero out of Honolulu, O'ahu.
52nd Anniversary OVERALL kane winner: Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehua under the direction of Kumu Robert Cazimero out of Honolulu, O'ahu.
52nd Anniversary OVERALL wahine winner: Hula Halau 'O Kamuela under the direction of Kumu Kau'ionalani Kamana'o & Kunewa Mook out of Kalihi & Waimanalo, O'ahu.
52nd Anniversary 1st place kane kahiko: Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La under the direction of Kumu Kaleo Trinidad out of Honolulu, O'ahu.
52nd Anniversary 1st place wahine kahiko: Hula Halau 'O Kamuela under the direction of Kumu Kau'ionalani Kamana'o & Kunewa Mook out of Kalihi & Waimanalo, O'ahu.
52nd Anniversary 1st place kane 'auana: Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehua under the direction of Kumu Robert Cazimero out of Honolulu, O'ahu.
52nd Anniversary 1st place wahine 'auana: Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine under the direction Kumu Ka'ilihiwa Vaughan-Darval out of Manoa, O'ahu.