Merrie Monarch Festival

Hilo, Hawaii Hosts the World's Premier Hula Competition

Hula Kahiko - Merrie Monarch Festival
Joe Carini / Getty Images

In Hawaii, the week after Easter Sunday is when hula halau (hula schools) from the islands of Hawaii and the mainland gather in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii for the Merrie Monarch Festival.

The Merrie Monarch Festival began in 1963 and has evolved into what is now universally considered to be the world's most prestigious hula competition.

Festival Honors King David Kalakaua

The festival is named in honor of King David Kalakaua, the last king of the Hawaiian islands, whose coronation in 1883 included public displays of hula. Hula had long been banned and buried under rules imposed by Hawaiian missionaries.

Kalakaua ruled for seventeen years. His reign was marked by resurgence in Hawaiian culture, music and included numerous public performances of hula.

Because of his love of dance and music, Kalakaua was nicknamed, "the Merrie Monarch." In his memory and in celebration of Hawaiian culture, dance and music, the Merrie Monarch Festival is held each year.

Festival Events April 16-22, 2017

In 2017, the week-long Merrie Monarch Festival runs from April 16-22, 2017.

While the highlights of the Festival will always be the three evenings of hula competition which require reserved seats, there are plenty of other free events throughout the week for everyone to enjoy.

It all begins at 9:00 a.m.on Sunday, April 16 with the annual Merrie Monarch Ho'olaule'a (celebration) at the Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium. Admission is free to watch performances by local Big Island halau.

From Monday through Friday of Festival week, there will be free entertainment 12:00 p.m. at the Grand Naniloa Hotel and 1:00 p.m. at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel.

The annual Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair will take place from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. This free event features local artists, crafters and plenty of entertainment. On Saturday the doors will close at 4:00 p.m.

At 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19 an exhibition night of hula and folk dance from around the Pacific will take place at the Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium. The performances are free to the public. No tickets are required for this free event.

On Saturday April 22, the Merrie Monarch Royal Parade will take place. The parade begins and ends at Pauahi Street and winds through downtown Hilo (Kilauea Ave. - Keawe St. - Waiānuenue Ave. - Kamehameha Ave.).

The Competition April 20-22, 2017

The annual competition extends over three nights. On Thursday evening, the Miss Aloha Hula competition is held. This is a solo competition for females where each dancer performs both hula kahiko (ancient hula) and hula 'auana (modern hula).

The Friday and Saturday competitions are for the hula halau (hula schools). Friday evening marks the hula kahiko competition. Saturday features the hula 'auana as well as the awards ceremony.

Broadcast Schedule

In Hawaii, KFVE, K5 The Home Team will broadcast the 52nd Annual Merrie Monarch festival live on March 31 - April 2, 2016. The broadcast is as follows:

  • Backstage: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 from 8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Hawaii time
  • Miss Aloha Hula: Thursday, April 20, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. - 12:00 midnight Hawaii time
  • Hula Kahiko (ancient): Friday, April 21, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. Hawaii time
  • Hula Auana (modern) and Awards: Saturday, April 22, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. -1:00 a.m. Hawaii time

Friday night will feature both kane (men) and wahine (women) halau (groups) dancing the kahiko, traditional dance.

Saturday night kane and wahine halau performi their 'auana. The winning halau are announced after the final performance.

The competition can also be viewed live over the Internet through streaming video on the station's website - K5 The Home Team.

Video clips of all performances will be available the day after the performance.

For More Information

For additional information on the Merrie Monarch Festival visit the Festival's website at www.merriemonarch.com.