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2017 Merrie Monarch Festival highlights

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    The wahine of Halau i ka Wekiu rehearsed hula auana to “Aloha Aku, Aloha Mai” as a tribute to the late Keo Woolford in preparation for this week’s Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.

Highlights, information and competition schedule for the 2017 Merrie Monarch Festival:

>> This year, only 10 Miss Aloha Hula soloists are vying for the title on Thursday night. Miss Aloha Hula 2016 Kayli Kai’ulani Carr will offer a farewell performance before the new one is named.

>> Competing for the first time this year is Kawai’ulaokala under the direction of kumu Keli’iho’omalu Puchalski of Oahu. Puchalski is a teacher at St. Louis School in Kaimuki and is bringing a group of 20 men to the competition. He has been a student of kumu hula Chinky Mahoe for many years and had competed in his halau, Kawaili’ula, as well. Both halau will be competing this year. “The opportunity came for us to go,” said Puchalski. “When the opportunity came, we took it. We’re excited to showcase our masculine, athletic style of hula and representation of [kumu] Chinky.”

Hula competition
Begins 6 p.m. nightly at Edith Kanakaole Stadium; tickets sold out
>> Thursday, April 20: Miss Aloha Hula
>> Friday, April 21: Group kahiko
>> Saturday, April 22: Group auana and naming the winners

>> Live coverage at 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with encores at 11 a.m. the following day; live streaming available at

Merrie Monarch Royal Parade
>> 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 22, downtown Hilo

>> Halau Hula o Kauhionamauna of Waipahu under the direction of kumu Denise Kia Ramento will perform “Lei Kula Na Ali’i,” a composition by Kuana Torres Kahele comparing a dear friend to the delicate ‘ilima blossom for auana night. The presentation honors the hula legacy of kumu hula Luka and Louise Kaleiki of the ‘Ilima Hula Studio and ‘Ilima Sweethearts, who founded their school in the 1950s and were overall winners in the 1970s.

>> Halau Manaola, the new halau under the direction of kumu hula Nani Lim Yap of Kohala, Hawaii island, returns to the competition for the second consecutive year. The halau is named after Yap’s son and fashion designer, Carrington Manaola Yap, who designed the costumes and choreographed the pieces. Halau Manaola’s signature is an elevated style that requires dancers to tread on the ball of their feet, and comes from kumu ‘Iolani Luahine. The halau will honor their beloved matriarch, Mary Ann Lim, who died March 29, through their mele this year.

>> Judges this year: Ainsley Halemanu, Rachel Lahela Ka’aihue, Pualani Kanaka’ole Kanahele, Etua Lopes, Pi’ilani Lua, Keali’i Reichel, Kalena Silva.

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