Merrie Monarch 2016: Hoike

Merrie Monarch 2016: Hoike (5pm)

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Merrie Monarch season is upon us. The energy and excitement in Hilo is unlike any other time of the year during the one week internationally-acclaimed hula competition.

Seats for competition nights -- Miss Aloha Hula on Thursday, kahiko (ancient-style hula) on Friday and 'auana (modern-style hula) on Saturday -- are the hottest tickets in town! Requests needed to be made last December and even though tens of thousands come in, only about 6,000 are given out.

Wednesday night's Ho'ike is a different story though. The event, which isn't a competition but a celebration and welcome for the halau that will later be taking the stage, is free and open to the public with first-come, first-serve seating. This leads to quite the crowd gathering from all over the world with hopes of experiencing the Merrie Monarch Festival from inside the Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium. The first family in line arrived at 3:30 Wednesday morning.

Keeping with tradition, Hilo hometown halau, Halau O Kekuhi was the first on stage. Dancing under the direction of kumu hula Nalani Kanaka'ole, they are always the first to perform on the Merrie Monarch stage and they never disappoint.

Nonosina, from California, was another fan favorite. They're one of the largest Tahitian groups in the country.

The final performance of the night by Te Kapa Haka O Te Whanau a Apanui from New Zealand also received roars from the crowd.

Hawaii News Now's coverage continues Thursday morning on Sunrise.