HONOLULU (KHON2) -In the ahupuaʻa of Waiākea, which lies in the moku of Hilo here on Hawaiʻi island, stands a street which headquarters the Merrie Monarch Festival, from the craft fair to the competition. 

We are talking about Piʻilani Street.

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It’s been two years since the Merrie Monarch craft fair has taken place, so you can imagine the hype and the energy that is building around Hilo town with its return. 

Let’s go inside to see what’s happening. 

This place is going off. 

A lot of vendors back here and I have a couple that we can speak with. 

Brother Aloha Victor is the owner of Kauluaʻe Hawaiʻi. 

How are things going?

“It’s going great.  Everybody’s back, everybody is enjoying it,” says Victor. 

“We are so glad to see everybody.  Everybody is so happy to see each other, big hugs, first bumps, big everything.  It’s so good to see everybody.”

What were some of the challenges in this pandemic that you had to get through to get back to where you are today?

“Business wise, for us, we had to really get online,” says Victor.

“Our presence online, we have a good social media following.  With everyone being at home and being on their phones, it totally changed our business concept.  So now we are 100% online.  We are actually doing way less pop-ups than in the past.  But we needed to come back and support Merrie Monarch and the amazing kanaka here, so let’s jump in.  So, we’re here.”

Tell us a little about your brand?

“Kauluaʻe was started 4 years ago,” says Victor.

“It was just for kicks and giggles.  I just wanted to make a few aloha shirts, that’s really what it was.  A lot of our designs are to honor people, places and movement.  We’ve named our pieces after amazing, inspiring people.  All of our products are made in Hawaii because I wanted to keep our money in our own community.”

There are a lot of people here. 

You can get stuck talking with one person, two people, three people. It’s like coming back to meet your family again. 

But another vendor that wanted to stop by is Pua Haaheo. 

We met with Lahapa Kalawe. Tell us a little about your brand.

“Our brand is Pua Haaheo and we do a lot of woodwork,” says Kalawe. 

“So, we have our kiʻi over here, iʻe kuku, ʻohe kāpala, anything really.”

How has it been with Merrie Monarch returning this year? It seems super packed and really busy. How has the reception been?

“It’s been really, really good,” says Kalawe.

“I think it has been one of the best years because no one has been doing it for a couple years.”

How were the challenges during the pandemic?

“It was mentally hard on everybody,” says Kalawe.

“And just not being able to see everybody in person for a little while, that was hard.  It was a transitional period for us.”

Congratulations and welcome back. 

Again, the place is going off. It’s a great place to be with a lot of vendors to find and to purchase from. And course, support local.

Again, this is kicking off the Merrie Monarch Craft Fair lasting through Sunday. 

Be sure to come down if you have the chance and check it out. 

Before we leave, I did have a chance to tap on some customers’ shoulders to see what they felt was the best thing about Merrie Monarch and this craft fair. 

“I love the fact that all the local Hawaiian artists get a chance to bring the culture forward because we don’t get to see it often anywhere else unless you seek it out, so it’s really a blessing to see everyone here,” says Puakea Balatico.

 “It is so amazing to be back in Hilo,” says Misty Tufono. 

“The aloha spirit is thick.  We are so grateful because it’s been a tradition from when I was little.  My mama used to bring me to the craft fair and now we come with my baby.  And so, we are so grateful to all the vendors, to all the organizers, to be back in Hilo.”

Aunty, what do you look forward to every year when you come here?

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“Spending my dear because the products here are so unique, you can’t get them anyplace else in the world,” says Cha Kuupuaala Thompson. “But you notice we have three generations here.  I’m going to tell Papa that the bank made mistake when he gets the bill.  That’s what I’m going to do.”