Organizers of the 57th annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo have announced the participating halau and judges online.
A total of 12 kane and 17 wahine groups from 22 halau are participating this year, representing Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii island and California. A total off 11 Miss Aloha Hula soloists will be vying for the title this year.
It will be an exciting lineup, according to festival president Luana Kawelu.
Kumu hula Robert Cazimero is bringing back his Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehua, which generally only competes once every 10 years, is returning five years early this year. In 2015, Halau Na Kamalei won the overall title at the 52nd Merrie Monarch Festival competition. The halau won overall, as well, in 2005.
Kumu hula Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu is also bringing his Academy of Hawaiian Arts from Oakland, Calif. back this year after several years’ hiatus.
Many other top-placing and long-participating halau, including Halau Mohala ‘Ilima, under the direction of kumu Mapuana de Silva, Halau I Ka Wekiu under the direction of Karl Veto Baker and Michael Casupang and Kawaili‘ula, under the direction of kumu hula Chinky Mahoe, are returning, as well.
A new halau from Hawaii island, Halau Hula Ke ‘Olu Makani O Mauna Loa under the direction of kumu Meleana Manuel, will be participating for the first time. Kumu Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin of Halau Ke Lei Mokihana o Leina‘ala will be bringing kane to compete for the first time this year, along with her wahine.
The Merrie Monarch Festival takes place from April 12 to 18 this year, and kicks off with a hoolaulea Sunday morning at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, followed by an Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fairs and other events.
The popular Hoike, the free exhibition night of hula and other folk dances from around the Pacific, is scheduled for Wednesday evening at Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium.
The Miss Aloha Hula competition is scheduled for the evening of April 16 at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium, group kahiko competition on April 17, and group auana competition on April 18, followed by the announcement of winners and awards presentations.
Merrie Monarch judges this year include Maelia Loebenstein Carter, Ainsley Halemanu, Kawaikapu Hewett, Nalani Kanaka‘ole Zane, Noenoelani Zuttermeister Lewis, Keali‘i Reichel, and Holoua Stender.
Ticket requests were accepted by traditional mail, starting Dec. 2, and are already sold out. Merrie Monarch T-shirts are available for order by calling 935-9168.