This week is the week of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. This is the Super Bowl of hula and those of us that practice hula look forward to it all year. This year is special–The 50th anniversary. Tickets for the three nights of the hula competition go on sale at midnight Dec. 26th each year. They sell out by daybreak. I sent my money in at about 8:00am and didn’t obtain a ticket. I am thankful the TV coverage is so extensive. However, it’s not the same as being there–the fragrance of plumeria, gardenia, pua kenikeni and pikaki permeates the humid air clinging to the dampness like the Hilo rain clings to the leaves. I miss seeing all the colorful mu’umu’u, the hats with beautiful intricate feather lei–lei hulu. I have always purchased scrips so I could get haupia with a slice of purple sweet potato atop. So many things about being there in person. Because this was a special anniversary, the committee brought back some of the contests from 50 years ago. There was a King Kalakaua (The Merrie Monarch) beard contest for the men and a barbershop quartet (or more) song contest…something for everyone. Craft fairs are everywhere. The parade will be tomorrow.
During the week there are performances at many many venues–at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, an up-to-date planetarium; at the Hilo Hawaiian and Naniloa hotels; at the intimate setting of Basically Books, a bookstore on Bay Front that specializes in Hawaiiana. This year the bookstore even boasted the original sign from the very first Merrie Monarch Festival. It was found in the basement of a local furniture store that was closing and was given to the bookstore.
At Basically Books four of the state’s top entertainers performed. In this relatively small venue it was standing room only. Kainani Kahaunaele, Weldon Kahauoha, Cyril Pahunui and Manu Boyd graciously allowed a few of us to dance to their mele, each on a different day. For a dancer, it just doesn’t get than this. It was the highlight of my week.
Kainani Kahauanaele. The photo of the two of us showed that we were certainly not ready, so not to embarrassed either one of us, I have chosen the one of Kainani alone. This has been one of the busiest week of my year. I am still packing and cleaning, getting ready for my imminent move to Maui. I am trying to keep up with my many orders from my Etsy shop and trying to keep up with all the activities of Merrie Monarch week from the hula performances, musical concerts, the craft fairs, the amazing food available.
Tomorrow will be the Merrie Monarch parade with over 150 units. The highlight is usually the pa’u riders…women on horseback wearing the beautiful skirts of satin. Both the riders and the horses decorated with lei. Many hands and many hours go into the making of the lei. The horse’s lei is about 12 inches around.
The week will soon be over, the competition will have their chosen winners (though in my eyes they are all winners). The craft fairs participants will pack up their remaining items, the bookstore, hotels, astronomy center and malls will go back to their normal schedules. And, na hula halau will start thinking about the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival for 2014.