No plans to cancel Merrie Monarch competition president says

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Updated: Mar. 3, 2020 at 3:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Merrie Monarch Festival organizers say the show will go on at least for now.

Luana Kawelu, the longtime president of the festival Hilo, says there are no plans to cancel the renowned hula competition despite growing concerns about the coronavirus.

But Kawelu also said that organizers will follow the recommendations of public health officials.

“I’m not sure what will come of it, but as far as we are concerned we are moving on,” Kawelu said.

The festival’s office has been inundated in recent days with phone calls from potential attendees asking whether the event is still planned.

“I am waiting for a cue or some kind of word from the state or Department of Health which way they want us to go," she said. “We are cognizant of the fact that this is something that we should be aware of and not taken lightly.”

“I think it’s because festivals on Oahu have been postponed or cancelled that they are getting anxious about it,” added Kawelu.

The competition is slated for April 16-18 with the hoike on April 15.

Each year, thousands of people from around the state and world flock to Hilo for the festival and accompanying pop-up shopping and social events.

Kawelu said the stage goes up this Monday.

"Everybody is practicing in place. The practice schedules are out. Halaus are flying up in two weeks from now to practice already."

More than 20 halau are in the line-up for competition.

Kawelu says they expect 5,000 people in the Edith Kanakaole Stadium.

She says if you’re sick, stay home and be safe. She also said it’s okay not kiss and hug everyone and put aside cultural customs for the sake of community health.

The event is also heavily attended by Japanese visitors. Kawelu said she’s heard of cancellations, but she has not independently confirmed that.

Her plans to hold the event comes as other large events on Oahu have been postponed or canceled, including the Honolulu Festival.

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