HANAPEPE — Gayle Thompson has been to the Merrie Monarch Festival many times as a spectator and a mother.
This time, she’ll be on stage.
Thompson will be one of 27 performers from Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala who will in the 53rd annual Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium in Hilo on the Big Island March 31 through April 2.
“This is the first time I’m going to the Merrie Monarch Festival as a participant,” Thompson said. “I’ve gone to watch my daughter perform. This year, my daughter is working for her master’s at Chaminade University and will be dancing with a Honolulu halau. I’ll be dancing with our Kauai halau. Of course, I’ll still be watching her, but this year, I’ll be dancing, too.”
Thompson was with the halau which performed its final cleansing and blessing Sunday ahead of its departure to participate in the festival which shares the aloha for hula and the Hawaiian culture.
“This is our culture,” Thompson said. “Hula is how we preserve history, tell our stories, and keep our culture alive by passing along what we know to our younger people. I am blessed and very grateful I was given the opportunity to be part of this halau.”
Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala, invited to participate in this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival, wrapped up its preparations during the cleansing and blessing rites at Salt Pond under the setting sun.
“This has been an adventure,” said Brooke Frasco, a 10th-grade student from Kamehameha Schools, Kapalama campus. “It means so much to me to be able to participate for the first time. Being a part of this has taught me to love our culture, and hula — my kumu, and my hula sisters. The experience showed me where I came from.”
Anolani Higashi said the day started early.
“We had to be in Anahola by 6 a.m. — before the sun came up,” Ano said. “We chanted the sun up. Then we went to Ke‘e Beach, Wailua, and Kahili for our performances. Now, we’re here at Salt Pond and will chant the sun down.”
Kim Frasco, Brooke’s mother, said she will travel to the Merrie Monarch this year, as a spectator.
“I’ve been there for two years on the stage,” Kim said. “I’m so blessed that Brooke has the opportunity to touch the stage and be part of the wahine who represent Kauai in hula. This is a very proud moment for me, and I will be there, watching and supporting.”
Kumu Hula Leina‘ala said everything is almost over as the group makes its final preparations before departing for the hula competition early on March 30.
“I’ve always enjoyed hula, but never thought I would have an opportunity like this,” Thompson said. “I’m so grateful to Kumu for giving me the opportunity to accomplish something which I only dreamed of.”