Merrie Monarch returns for 2021 with major changes

Coronavirus

HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Merrie Monarch Festival will take place this summer but the cultural event will look much different and be scaled-back for safety reasons.

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The 57th annual Festival was cancelled last March just weeks before it was scheduled to take place. That devastated halau, businesses and fans across the globe. This year’s event will be much different than years past.

It’s a celebration of hula and Hawaiian culture. Kumu Hula Keano Ka’upu of Halau Hi’iakainamakalehua said they didn’t want to cancel it two years in a row.

“We just need to have it,” Ka’upu said. “My main concern is making sure that Merrie Monarch and things like Merrie Monarch don’t die-out because of a pandemic.”

Merrie Monarch President Luana Kawelu said it’s scheduled the last week in June, and they’re taking every precaution.

“We have been working with health professionals, doctors and organizations in the state to work with them and get the protocol down,” Kawelu said. “Because what we want is safety. That’s our primary concern.”

The parade, hula performances by visiting halau, and craft fair will not take place this year for safety reasons. The competition will also look differently.

Halau Hula O Napunaheleonapua Kumu Rich Pedrina said the competition will also look differently than it has before because music will be prerecorded and the performances will not be televised live.

Pedrina said even the awards ceremony will be virtual.

“There’s not going to be any audience,” Pedrina explained. “That’s already been been clarified. It will just be the dancers and the judges.”

Only 15 halau will take part compared to 28 and the number of dancers allowed is also cut in half.

“Normally 35 is the max that you can take of dancers, but now, it’s 15,” Pedrina said.

And everyone must take a COVID-19 test before arriving on Hawaii island and three days after arrival.

“They have to be all negative,” Kawelu said. “If somebody tests positive, that halau cannot participate.”

They’re also required to quarantine before, during and after the competition, remaining within their halau bubble.

‘We wanted to show that we can do it,” Kawelu said. “We have a responsibility to our culture, and our community to do it right.”

Kawelu said she is trying to find a way to incorporate the vendors and crafters who depend heavily on the event to sustain their businesses.

“We’re still trying to see what we can do for the crafters because we’d like to take care of them,” Kawelu said.

Pedrina is encouraging anyone who wants to support Merrie Monarch to purchase a t-shirt for the event.

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