World-renowned Hawaii cultural festival resumes this summer after cancelling in 2020 due to COVID-19

by Alfred Acenas
(EBC Hawaii-Pacific)

HONOLULU (Eagle News) – The annual Merrie Monarch Festival at Hawaii’s Big Island will be back this summer, according to organizers.

The event was cancelled last year due because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The health and well-being of all hālau [Hawaiian word for school] participants and the community overall was our top priority then and continues to be now as we move forward with holding the event this year,” said festival president Luana Kawelu.

Kawelu worked with health professionals and a team of advisors to develop safety guidelines.  They are modeled after those used by professional sports teams and associations over the past year.

“We are grateful to our partners, including representatives from The Queen’s Health Systems that are lending their time, expertise, and resources to help us set up and implement this comprehensive safety plan,” said Kawelu

All hālau participants, festival staff, as well as a television production crew have agreed to follow the guidelines.

They include undergoing multiple COVID-19 testings, a five-day isolation period prior to entering the competition venue for the first time, and daily screenings to monitor participants for symptoms.

“It was a lot to consider given that competition preparation is intense in and of itself,” Kumu Hula [master teacher in the art of hula] Keʻano Kaʻupu 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.”

The festival has the support of Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth.

“As a dedicated and crucial partner, the County of Hawaii continues to work closely with Merrie Monarch Festival President Luana Kawelu, and the Organizing Committee,” said Roth.  “I have received, read, and approved the comprehensive and robust outline of the extensive protocols and actions.”

Performances will take place at the Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium in Hilo Town on June 24, 25, and 26. They will broadcast later on July 1, 2, and 3, at which time the winners will be announced.

A total of 15 hālau will participate.

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a non-profit organization that honors the legacy of King David Kalākaua, who reigned from 1874 until his death in 1891.  Kalākaua inspired the revival and perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions, native language, and arts.

The event had been held every single year since 1964 until its cancellation in 2020.
(Eagle News Service)