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Merrie Monarch organizers announce festival to be held this summer without audience

Updated: Mar. 27, 2021 at 8:38 AM HST
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HILO, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After months of planning and developing a safety plan, Merrie Monarch Festival organizers announced Friday that the iconic Hilo event will be held this summer.

There will be no live audience, but all performances will take place at Edith Kanakaole Stadium in Hilo on June 24, 25 and 26 and then will be broadcast on K5 the following week ― on July 1, 2 and 3.

All halau participants, staff and production crews will follow strict COVID-19 guidelines, including testing, 5 days of isolation and daily screening, organizers said.

That means if anyone in a halau tests positive, the entire halau cannot compete.

“On the fifth day, they have to take another test. If anyone in their bubble pulls positive, they cannot. They cannot participate,” said Luana Kawelu, Festival President.

The Merrie Monarch Festival was canceled last year due to the pandemic, but had previously been held every year since 1964.

The broadcast a week after the competition means the winners will be kept a secret until it airs on television.

“We’ve got to figure that out because that’s going to be so difficult,” said Kawelu.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth says the county is on board.

“We are going to have a Merrie Monarch this year,” he said.

“Hula is life. Hula heals so I think it’s good for us to move on,” said Kawelu.

Kumu Hula Keano Kaupu of Halau Hiiakainamakalehua said planning for the modified festival has been significant ― and come on top of typical preparations and training for the event.

“It was a lot to consider given that competition preparation is intense in and of itself,” Kaupu said.

“But hula isn’t just an activity we do, it is our way of life and we really wanted to be back in this Merrie Monarch space and community.”

Kumu hula Rich Pedrina’s ladies of Hālau Hula ‘O Nāpunaheleonāpua are practicing in a Papakolea basketball court. They are competing in the festival for the first time and were scheduled to go last year.

“I honestly feel comfortable. I’m ready and whatever happens we’ll work with it,” he said.

Here’s the list of participating halau:

  • Hālau Hi’iakaināmakalehua
  • Hālau Hula ‘O Nāpunaheleonāpua
  • Hālau Hula Ke ‘Olu Makani O Mauna Loa
  • Hālau Hula Olana
  • Hālau I Ka Wēkiu
  • Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinā’ala
  • Hālau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniākea
  • Hālau Kala’akeakauikawēkiu
  • Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi
  • Hālau Keolakapuokalani
  • Hālau O Ka Hanu Lehua
  • Ka Lā ‘Ōnohi Mai O Ha’eha’e
  • Kawai’ulaokalā Kawaili’ulā
  • Ke Kai O Kahiki

This story will be updated.

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