Video by David Corrigan, voice of Stephanie Salazar
HILO, Hawaii – The 50th annual Merrie Monarch Festival came to a close in Hilo this weekend.
From start to finish on Saturday, the entire town was celebrating hula and Hawaiian culture.
The three hour Merrie Monarch parade started at 10:30 a.m., and featured 170 units, double the amount of the year before.
The parade was staged at Wailoa State Park at the Statue of King Kamehameha, and then marched off – up Pauahi Street and around the Downtown area.
The 2013 Miss Aloha Hula Manalani Mili Hokoana English of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka was front and center.
So were the dignitaries like Governor Neil Abercrombie – who travelled by car, or Mayor Billy Kenoi, who opted to walk the route with his wife Takako.
The grand marshal was Merrie Monarch Festival co-founder Gene Wilhelm. On horseback – pa‘u queen Genevieve Cran, Kapalala Ranch’s “grand dame”; and pa‘u marshal Clement Andrade.
Of course, at the Merrie Monarch, everything is a competition… of the many elaborately decorated floats, the first place winners were Halau Na Pua O Uluhaimalama, with the Overcoming Faith Center placing second, and the volcanic Home Depot float taking third.
Molokai swept all awards relating to pa’u units. Hawaii Island got on the board, at least. Their pooper scooper detail took 3rd place.
Many school bands, military troops, classic cars, businesses, and events were involved. It was probably the largest parade in recent memory.
One of the highlites was the Keaukaha float. On it was Abel Simeona Lui and Gene Tamashiro, surrounded by kalo growing in piles of soil,. Their “kanaka garden” at Wailoa Park was leveled by authorities on Friday, and many of the activists who were present at the time were arrested. The students of the Keaukaha school – inspired by the agricultural renegades – offered them a ride and a chance to be in the parade.
Meanwhile, the kanaka gardners say that apparently some “menehune” returned to plant more kalo sometime in the late evening hours, in the very same place.
As for the hula competition that evening: the Oahu halua won big.
First place went to Kawaili‘ula – ahlau from Kailua, O‘ahu, under the direction of kumu hula Chinky Mahoe. They earned 1,155 points overall.
Just thee points behind in second place: Halau Mohala ‘Ilima – a group from Ka‘ohao, O‘ahu. Their kumu hula is Mapuana de Silva.
Hawaii Island wasnt shut out, thanks to kumu hula Nahokuokalani Gaspang and Halau Hula ‘O Kahikilaulani, which always seems to do well in the eyes of the judges.
They took third place in “Kane overall” with 1,141 points.
But its not all about who won or lost. Mahalo to all the halau who participated in the milestone event.