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60th annual Merrie Monarch Festival takes place this week

LIHU‘E — Akin to a keiki leaving for summer camp for the first time, and warriors heading to battle, Kumu Hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin and members of Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala each silently bade aloha to their island home on Monday, April 10, 2023.

Pavao Jardin and the halau left Lihu‘e Airport to participate in this year’s 60th annual Merrie Monarch Festival, which is described as the world’s largest and finest hula stage, or the Olympics of hula.

Accompanying the group leaving for a nearly weeklong journey, the halau made sure the perpetual Merrie Monarch trophy left with them. It was an honor the halau earned after winning nearly all of the major competitive events leading to the coveted overall halau honor during the 2022 Merrie Monarch, the halau’s 10th year of participating in the various competitive types of hula.

“This has been quite a journey,” Pavao Jardin said. “I want to mahalo everyone who has supported and continue to support us through these many years. This is really exciting for us because this year is the first year the competition will be held before a full house. Mahalo, Kaua‘i!”

Practice and preparation for this year’s competitive phase of the Merrie Monarch started with the halau’s last steps off the stage from last year’s competition.

“We’re at peace, now,” said Breeze Pavao, the halau’s entry into the Miss Aloha Hula competition at the Merrie Monarch. “We’re ready. Everyone has worked hard and has done whatever they could. We’re ready.”

The halau’s love of home is demonstrated in its programming for the competitive hula phase. Pavao Jardin said during the kahiko, or ancient hula, competition, the group will be performing a number about Nohili, the sand dunes between the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility and Polihale State Park. During the ‘auana competition, the halau will be doing a number about a love story that takes place in Hanalei.

“Breeze, when she takes the stage for Miss Aloha Hula, will be doing hula about Ni‘ihau, her family,” her mother Pavao Jardin said. “It’s from all parts of the island, from one end to the other.”

There are many hearts that prefer an in-person appearance of support, but face sold-out conditions for the Merrie Monarch itself, as well as lodging accommodations tough to find if not booked years in advance.

For these and others, the competitive hula phase of the Merrie Monarch will be broadcast live on KFVE, and livestreamed on the Hawai‘i News Now website on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“Breeze is number 10 of 12 candidates vying for Miss Aloha Hula,” Pavao Jardin said. “The halau performs last during the kahiko and ‘auana competition. You can take a nap and wake up before seeing us.”

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a nonprofit organization that honors the legacy of King David Kalakaua, nicknamed “The Merrie Monarch,” who inspired the perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions, native language and arts.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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