Merrie Monarch Festival organizers are planning to move forward with a hula competition this April with a limited live audience, but will not be selling tickets to the general public.
Festival organizers announced Wednesday that they have secured permission to offer only a fraction of the seats usually sold for the competition at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium in Hilo. Tickets will be reserved for participating halau, and a reduced number of complimentary tickets will go to longstanding supporters and sponsors of the festival, said president Luana Kawelu.
The public should not send in ticket requests this month via U.S. postal mail, as has been customary in years past. Any requests received will be mailed back, she said.
“As we slowly open our doors to audiences, we want to ensure that the halau and their families are cared for first and will continue our practice of allotting participating halau a set amount of tickets as in years past,” organizers said in their announcement. “These halau tickets, along with a reduced number of complimentary tickets for longstanding supporters and sponsors of the Festival, will be the only tickets available. Therefore, we will not be selling tickets to the general public at this time, because we will have reached the seating capacity currently allowed to us.”
For more than 50 years, the Merrie Monarch Festival offered the public tickets for the hula competition on a first-come, first-served basis via mailed-in ticket requests. The stadium has about 4,200 paid seats, Kawelu said.
In 2019, the tickets ranged from $35 per person for two nights to $47 for all three nights in reserved seats. General admission for first-come, first-served seating ranged from $7 for Miss Aloha Hula to $27 for Friday and Saturday nights.
Last year, the hula competition, along with the parade and all other festivities, were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the hula competition was pushed back to June and televised in early July, with rigid safety protocols and no live audience.
Because many of the participating halau had fewer dancers and kokua, their families were unable to accompany them.
“Your appreciation and love of the hula is profound, and we value your support for the perpetuation of this vital cultural practice,” said organizers in their announcement. “We apologize that we are currently unable to welcome back more of you to experience the Merrie Monarch Festival in person. However, we want to ensure a safe event for our community, kupuna, participating halau, staff and volunteers, as well as audience members. We look forward to the time when we can gather more freely, but until then we will proceed with caution, all the while ensuring that we are able to maintain our mission of supporting and promoting hula and Hawaiian culture.”