(BIVN) – Penny Vredenburg, long-time supporter of the Merrie Monarch Festival, has a message for the participating hālau following Mayor Harry Kim’s August 9th letter saying they could no longer make overnight use of county gyms.
“We want them,” Vredenburg said in a phone interview with Sherry Bracken. “Don’t stop coming. We will make way for them somehow. By hook or by crook, we will get it done. And they will be housed. And please, do not hesitate to continue participating with Merrie Monarch.”
According to Vredenburg, the county gyms are very convenient for large hālau, “because they could eat, sleep and rehearse on that huge gym floor.”
“The gym floor was everything,” Vredenburg said. “And it just made all the sense in the world that they would stay in these large areas because they could rehearse. So it was extremely practical and everybody welcomed them. Everybody. Except this year.”
This year, Kim’s letter stated, the Hawaii County Fire Department cited specific Fire and Building Codes that were being violated by allowing the hālau to use the gyms. The county let the hālau use the gyms during the 2017 festival, as long as they had an approved fire watch at each facility. The administration said that would not be allowed in 2018 and the hālau would have to find another place to stay.
The mayor’s letter shook the hula community. Supporters feared the decision would have a negative effect on hālau participation. “I grew up with Merrie Monarch from high school years,” Vredenburg said, “and Merrie Monarch has been so good to Hilo and its Hilo’s pride and joy. I hope it continues without barriers placed on them. Why those barriers were placed I haven’t the faintest idea.”
“I know for a fact that Harry Kim has been blessed with complimentary tickets for years for Merrie Monarch,” Vredenburg said. “I know for a fact he’s never used them. And it would be nice, it would be wonderful, if he would just let himself come and enjoy Merrie Monarch. And see the impact it makes on so many people and on this county. We would so welcome his support. Maybe if he would attend, he would see and feel the aloha.”