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The 60th Merrie Monarch Festival is on in April

The lineup of dancers participating in the 60th Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo has been announced for April.

A total of 12 soloists are vying for the Miss Aloha Hula title on April 13 at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium, where the stage has already been constructed.

A total of 23 halau from across the state and beyond — including 19 wahine and nine kane groups — are competing in the group kahiko competition on April 14 and the group auana competition on April 15.

“We’re just happy to be back, and to be able to celebrate hula again,” said Festival President Luana Kawelu. “The halau are also excited to return to the stage and just enjoy hula.”

Last year, the competition proceeded with a limited live audience, but no tickets were sold to the public. This year, the tickets were publicly available and have already been sold out, according to Kawelu.

Many former winners are returning this year, including last year’s overall winner, Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leina‘ala from Kauai, along with longtime participants, Halau Mohala ‘Ilima, Halau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniakea, and Halau Na Mamo O Pu‘uanahulu of Oahu.

Most of the competing halau are from Oahu, but there will also be four from Maui, three from Hawaii island, one from Kauai — and one from Washington state.

There will also once again be an in-person ho‘olaulea, ho‘ike night, Hawaiian Arts and Craft Fair, and parade in downtown Hilo, with festivities beginning on Easter Sunday, April 9.

Kawelu said there are no COVID-19 testing requirements for participants in this year’s festival.

Ho‘ike night on Wednesday, April 12, will feature Hilo’s popular Halau o Kekuhi, as usual, along with students of the late kumu hula Johnny Lum Ho.

Tickets for Ho‘ike this year were $5 each to celebrate the 60th, and were available to those who stood in line on the last Sunday in February, said Kawelu. A few are still left, she said, from the Merrie Monarch Office at 865 Piilani St.

The judges for this year’s hula competition include Cy Bridges, Ed Collier, Vicky Holt Takamine, Nalani Kanakaʻole, Noenoelani Zuttermeister Lewis, Piʻilani Lua, and Kalena Silva.

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