The Merrie Monarch Festival, Big Island of Hawaii: the most coveted tickets in town
Getting Justin Bieber tickets is child’s play compared to getting to see the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. Every year, hula dancers from all over the world converge on the quaint town of Hilo, Hawaii, toting boxes of lei, bags of ti leaves, costumes, ukulele, guitars, ipu (gourds) and pahu drums to compete in the “Olympics” of hula dancing. Men and women compete separately in two divisions: auana (modern) and kahiko (ancient). The Miss Aloha Hula competition is the only solo category, and winning is akin to being crowned Miss Universe—and then some.
This year, as always, the oli (chants) brought what we call “chicken skin” as voices reverberated in the close quarters of the Edith Kankaole Stadium. If you feel as though you’re surrounded by the past—it’s because you are. The oli and mele (songs) are passed down from generation to generation, touching on subjects as diverse as the twinkling stars above Diamond Head, paying homage to Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing or offering a lively description of an especially well-endowed prince.
Originally created to revive the dying interest in hula, the Merrie Monarch Festival is now a week-long celebration that includes a street fair, free performances showcasing keiki (children’s) hula, kupuna (elders) and of course, food and fun. The main competition takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Want tickets? Get them now. The stadium is small. Local tip: bring a pillow because the seats are hard. Is it worth it? There’s nothing like it in the world.