Merrie Monarch Festival kicks off with a special recognition of Hokulea

Sunrise On The Road: 2018 Merrie Monarch Festival - Kuhao Zane

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lines to get into Wednesday night's Hoike performances at the Merrie Monarch Festival started before dawn in Hilo.

It's the only night that's first-come, first-served and has become a celebration of the community of hula — around the globe.

During the evening's performances, there will be a special recognition of Hokulea and its successful circumnavigation around the globe.

Aunty Luana Kawelu, Merrie Monarch Festival president, said she we overwhelmed with pride when she watched the coverage of Hokulea's return to Hawaii in 2017 after three years away. She said she felt there was no better way to commemorate the voyaging canoe's history than by honoring the original crew members of Hokulea's 1976 inaugural voyage.

Hokulea is in Hilo for the Merrie Monarch Festival, and will remain there until April 28.

"All of us should celebrate the accomplishment," Kawelu told Hawaii News Now. "They went around the world."

Tens of thousands of people have descended on Hilo this week for the festival.

The 55th annual, week-long cultural event will kick into high gear Thursday, with the Miss Aloha Hula competition.

The group Hula Kahiko competition will take place on Friday and the group Hula 'Auna competition will close the festival Saturday.

Wednesday night, meanwhile, is Hoike night — "an exhibition night of hula and folk dance from around the Pacific."

No tickets are required for Hoike, so thousands started lining up at the Edith Kanaka?ole Stadium early Wednesday in hopes of grabbing a seat.

Kawelu said it's imperative that Ho'ike night remain free and open to the public so that as many people as possible can come enjoy an evening of hula and celebration of the Hawaiian culture.

Tickets for Merrie Monarch competition went on sale Dec. 1 and were quickly sold out.

Those who can't attend the festival in person can watch it on KFVE and online.

Sunrise is also "On the Road" with extensive coverage and live interviews.

See the full list of Merrie Monarch festival events by clicking here.

This story may be updated.

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