HILO, Hawaii – The 2014 Merrie Monarch Festival kicked off on Easter Sunday with its annual Ho’olaulea, the traditional opening for the renowned week of hula and Hawaiian culture.

Big Island Video News filmed parts of the first performance showcasing the Ha‘akumalae Protocols Program. Practitioners and students from Hawaii Community College and Hawaii Island Public Charter Schools gathered on the floor of the Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium, many toting implements of the island’s native culture. Kekuhi Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani, Dr. Taupori Tangaro and Manaiakalani Kalua led the various halau, who welcomed a special group of travelers from Aotearoa: Te Waka Huia, and kapa haka experts Tapeta and Annette Wehi. The traditional Maori performers enthralled the crowd.

The opening protocols included a short performance from a halau comprised of Miloli’i and Kohala keiki, kumu and kupuna. It was a milestone in the cultural history of Miloli’i, which “has never participated in any Merrie Monarch Festival events and has never been deeply connected to a prominent Halau lineage of Hawaiʻi Island,” according to those involved with the program.

The ho’olaulea also included performances by Hula Halau Ke ‘Olu Makani O Mauna Loa (Meleana Manuel), Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua (Johnny Lum Ho), Na Lei Liko Ola‘a (Kimo Kekua), Halau O Kekuhi (Kekuhi Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani), Halau Na Pua O Uluhaimalama (Emery Aceret), and Toa Here (Romi Salvador)