Organizers of the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo continue to issue refunds for tickets to the hula competition, which would have taken place this week, but was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The process is slow-going, according to festival president Luana Kawelu, since the nonprofit’s office in Hilo is currently closed, and she asks for patrons to be patient.
In mid-March, the nonprofit announced that the 57th Merrie Monarch Festival would be canceled due to coronavirus concerns. It was a very difficult decision to make, according to Kawelu, but necessary for the safety of everyone involved.
The Miss Aloha Hula competition, featuring 11 soloists, was originally scheduled to take place this evening at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium.
A total of 12 kane and 17 wahine groups from 22 halau were also scheduled to participate in the group competitions on Friday and Saturday this year, representing Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii island and California.
The competition is usually capped off with the announcement of scores and winners after midnight Saturday.
“We extend our aloha to all of you and your ohana during these unprecedented times, ” said festival organizers in a message posted online. “Mahalo for your patience and understanding, allowing us time to assess the various decisions we are faced with in lieu of our having canceled the 2020 Merrie Monarch Festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The message continues with, “One of these critical decisions included thinking through a fair process for refunding the cost of tickets purchased for the three nights of competition. To those of you who already contacted our office to let us know that you would like to donate your ticket money to the Festival, mahalo for this generous offer.”
Festival organizers said they decided, in turn, to pass along the donations to the 22 halau invited to participate this year.
“They will undoubtedly appreciate the kokua to offset the expenses that were incurred in preparing for this year’s competition,” said organizers. “We will be doing the same for anyone else who would like to kakoo (support) the halau in this manner. We are intimately aware however that these are financially challenging times and for those of you who would prefer a refund, we completely understand.”
Thousands from all over the world flock to Hilo to attend the festival, filling hotel rooms and packing the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium to watch the esteemed hula competition.
To help organizers process refunds as well as donations, patrons are asked to send in the original tickets by mail via the U.S. Postal Service to Merrie Monarch Festival, 865 Piilani St., Hilo, Hawaii 96720.
Merrie Monarch will only honor refunds for original tickets. Photocopies and photos of the original tickets will not be accepted. Those requesting a refund should also include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with the original tickets.
Refund requests should be submitted no later than June 30.
Kawelu said she did not have an estimate of how much has been donated, and how many refunds have been requested, at this time.
Questions can be directed to the Merrie Monarch office at 935-9168 by leaving a message. Although the office is closed, the messages are checked weekly, and volunteers will return calls as soon as possible.
Many of the vendors who would have participated in the annual Invitational Arts Fair have gone online, and some are available via a popup makeke, but there is no official online fair organized by Merrie Monarch.
Orders for T-shirts, tote bags and posters from this year’s festival are also still available for purchase by calling the same number.
For information on 2020 Merrie Monarch ticket refunds, visit merriemonarch.com/2020refunds.