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Come with us to Hilo

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Yes, this is it, the event hulaholics worldwide wait for: the Merrie Monarch Festival! The official start date is Sunday, April 20. Hawaii is mobilized. All the tickets are sold out, along with accommodations, rental cars and airline seats.

The rough plan for this blog is to take you along to every possible event,all the hula, from Ho’ike on Wednesday, April 23, to the ‘auana competition on Saturday, April 26, to the April 27 and April 28 travels to the volcano, and everything in between.

In Hilo, Easter Sunday includes an all-day Ho’olaulea at the Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium. On all islands, Sunday is a day for lei making and practice. In Honolulu, the Chinatown lei stands are packing and stacking. If you have ti leaves, no doubt someone’s daughter or son needed them and they are now cut, washed and tied, ready to adorn a dancer.

Halau members are reminding friends and fans that the Merrie Monarch competition is streamed live over the Internet. From the mainland’s East to West coasts, fans stay up all night watching and texting comments and iPhone cheers.

Laminated bag tags and halau T-shirts have been distributed to the dancers and the kokua, the helpers. Without what amounts to an entire army of volunteers, none of this world-renowned hula event would happen.

Lucky folks who tuned in to PBS Hawaii last Thursday evening, April 17, got an hour special of interviews and dancing at last year’s 50th Merrie Monarch. It whetted the appetite and started the countdown to leaving for Hilo or staking out a spot on the couch.

Reading the Merrie Monarch program book in advance helps. Na Mea Hawai’i/NativeBooks in Ward Warehouse has some for sale. The first things that catch your eye? The cover design is stunning, the schedule of events daunting and the first contestant in the Miss Aloha Hula competition has a name that is 51 letters long. Won’t it be fun to hear her name announced?

Lynn Cook is a freelance arts and cultural writer who has studied hula for 25 years.

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