Members of hula halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Hawai‘i were quickly identified at the Lihu‘e Airport crowd Sunday morning because of the uniform, dark-blue shirts emblazoned with “Merrie Monarch.”
The outfit also included matching accessories, including personal face masks and personal totes proudly displaying the mokihana berry that is the flower of Kaua‘i, and luggage in colors to match the mokihana berry colors.
“We always leave with last year’s (shirts),” said a kane performer between checking in baggage and waiting on the arrivals to complete the abbreviated groups that will participate in the 2021 edition of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in Hilo. “We come home with this year’s (shirts).”
Kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin said this is the ninth appearance of the Kalaheo-based halau at the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.
“It’s supposed to be our 10th appearance,” she said. “But there wasn’t a festival last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutting everything down. We have to leave today because we need to quarantine before performing. We also need to have testing done, and we cannot associate with any of the other participating halau. Basically, we’re going, performing and coming home.”
The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival has been held each year since 1964, and became a victim of the pandemic when Festival President Luana Kawelu had to make a decision to call off the event weeks before it was scheduled to run in the spring of 2020, the festival website states.
“The health and wellbeing of all halau participants and the community overall was our top priority then, and continues to be now, as we move forward with holding the event this year,” Kawelu said in her message.
“We are grateful to our partners, including representatives from The Queen’s Health Systems that are lending their time, expertise and resources to help us set up and implement this comprehensive safety plan (that is modeled after those used by professional sports teams and associations over the past year).”
Pavao Jardin said this trip will see the halau kane take the stage for the first time. The kane group includes Luke Hunadi, who recently graduated from Kaua‘i High School.
“He’s going straight to college from here,” she said. “Remember him from when he earned the Master Keiki Hula in 2013 at the Queen Lili‘uokalani Keiki Hula Competition?”
Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala is one of 15 participating halau that will take the stage with no live audience on June 24, 25 and 26 at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium in Hilo.
The field includes 11 wahine and eight kane halau in both the kahiko (ancient) and ‘auana (modern) categories, and seven Miss Aloha Hula entrants.
The performances will be broadcast on KFVE on July 1, 2, and 3, at which time the winners will be announced.
“We’ll be home by then,” Pavao Jardin said. “We have a big-screen television, and we’ll be watching like everyone else.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.