No tickets required this year for Hō‘ike, donations encouraged at event to help those impacted by Lāhainā fire

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Despite the overwhelming loss following the deadly Lāhainā fire last August, four hula hālau from Maui will compete in this year’s 61st annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival on Hawai‘i Island.

Kawailiʻulā. PC: Merrie Monarch Facebook

To kōkua (help) the people from West Maui, many of whom lost loved ones, their homes or both, the festival organizers decided to allow free admission to this year’s Hō’ike Night at Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium tonight, with the option to donate to the Lāhainā community at the door.

The hula exhibition and folk dance from across the Pacific takes place tonight at 6 p.m., a day before the three-night competition commences. Click here on how to watch Ho‘ike and the hula competition.

With the upheaval Maui residents were facing, Merrie Monarch Festival President Luana Kawelu wasn’t sure if hula hālau from the island would participate in the hula competition this year.


Kawelu said normally, the festival only sees two or three Maui groups participate, however, this year, there are four. Some of those dancers lost their homes.

While they had an opportunity to drop out, Kawelu said the groups chose to continue the journey to Merrie Monarch.

“I’m in awe of their passion and dedication to the art,” Kawelu said.


An article by Hawai‘i News Now reports eight haumana (students) from Hālau o ka Hanu Lehua, lost their homes in the Lāhainā fire. Dancer Dorcas Cashman, who will take to the stage with her three daughters, lost their home. She told the Honolulu new team that continuing with hula, school and church, she thinks, has helped them move forward and continue to thrive and process their grief.

Traveling to the Big Island to compete in the prestigious competition is not easy, even with the hardship and loss suffered by some in Maui. Kawelu said the cost for hālau to travel to compete in the event costs upwards of $60,000.

That doesn’t include the vans they’ll need to rent, the food, makeup artists and more while they’re in Hilo Kawelu explained.


But the reason the hālau do it is simple: “They love hula,” Kawelu said, adding they believe that Hilo is where the festival should be that leads to their dedication to this journey.

The remaining three groups attending from Maui are:

  • Hālau Hula Kauluokalā, under the direction of Kumu Hula Uluwehi Guerrero, from Kahului
  • Hālau Kekuaokalā‘au‘ala‘iliahi, under the direction of Nā Kumu Hula Haunani & ‘Iliahi Paredes, from Wailuku
  • Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka, under the direction of Kumu Hula Nāpua Silva, from Waiohuli
Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Kauai Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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