HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Merrie Monarch Festival is back in Hilo after two years and businesses are loving it.

The arts and crafts fair opened Monday, April 18 and many folks said the attention is bringing a much-needed economic boost.

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The hula competition does not start till Thursday, April 21 but the owner of Hawaiian Style Café said Merrie Monarch is already bringing life to Hilo’s economy.

“It’s important for us, but it’s important for the whole community,” Hawaiian Style Café owner Guy Kaoo said. “You know, this helps everyone financially, it keeps everybody working, you know?”

“It’s a morale boost for everyone, all the businesses, all the people, you know? So we’re just excited to have Merrie Monarch back in town.”

Guy Kaoo, Hawaiian Style Café owner

Hilo’s Grand Naniloa Hotel said their rooms have not been this full since before the pandemic, but it is not all about business — bringing the community together is what really matters.

“All our vendors, the crafters and the clothing ware, the musicians, all of that has been completely on hold and this event allows for everybody to get back and gather again and be able to provide that to our community and to the state overall as well,” Grand Naniloa Hotel general manager Scott Pauli said.

One Oahu woman said the return of in-person festival music is sorely needed after more than two years of silence.

“I think it’s just wonderful,” Ewa Beach resident Kimberly Kaumeheiwa said. “Great for the community and of course, the Merrie Monarch, because it’s been off for two years now and it’s just a sad thing. So I’m really happy that it’s returned.”

Ah Lan’s Lei Stand is up and running with floral arrangements at the Civic Center and local artist Kim Taylor Reece said there is no better place in Hawaii to be.

“This is the biggest party in the whole state of Hawaii. This is like Mardi Gras. If you can get to Merrie Monarch, even if you can’t get into the stadium, just come over and be with all the dancers and be with all the designers and all the different people that are here, it’s so much fun,” Reece said.

Those who are thinking about flying to Hilo are in luck because Hawaiian Airlines still had availability on Wednesday, April 20.

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A non-stop flight from Honolulu that departs on Thursday, April 21 was listed at $109 on Wednesday, tap the link above for details.