By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Last year for the Merrie Monarch Festival’s Ho‘ike exhibition, the line to get in to the stadium started at dawn, so great was the anticipation for the events of that night.
So if you heard the tentative lineup for the 2013 show features performances from the old-time greats Halau O Kekuhi, Halau Na Kamalei, Waimapuna, Na Wai Eha O Puna and Ke Kai O Kahiki, how early would you wake up to stand in line?
What if the night also included rare performances from veterans of the first decade of the Merrie Monarch Festival, including Hauoli Hula Girls and Ilima Hula Studio? What if you knew there would be a hula featuring all living and able former Miss Aloha Hula winners, and a concert with the likes of Keali‘i Reichel, Robert Cazimero, Manu Boyd and Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu?
Instead of spending all day in line without the guarantee of getting in to the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multipurpose Stadium, would you rather mail in $5 for a ticket?
Because of the expected overwhelming interest in the Merrie Monarch Festival’s golden jubilee celebration, the festival committee for this year only is allocating seats for the formerly free Wednesday night Ho‘ike by $5 mail-in ticket.
“It should be $20,” Cazimero said. “When you think about what’s being presented — the history; the amount of work that the people that are performing; what they have done, not just for Merrie Monarch but for a country’s culture. It’s a representation of the best of who we are.
“Really, it’s priceless. It really is priceless. Five dollars, it’s nothing. But grateful still. But it should be $20. It should be $100, you know?”
The ticket requests for the Ho‘ike will be accepted beginning Jan. 15, 2013, but not earlier. One person will be allowed to request up to four tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. This is being done in response to requests by family members of halau, some of whom are traveling from as far away as California, who want to be able to watch their loved ones dance on the stage one more time.
This is separate from the request forms for the Merrie Monarch Festival competition, which still must be mailed in to the Merrie Monarch Festival office at 865 Piilani St., Hilo, HI 96720, after Christmas. For more information about ticket requests, go online to www.merriemonarch.com.
Cazimero, reached Wednesday at Mountain Apple Co., said his halau would do “a half hour packed full of what we’ve been doing for 37 years, which will be a little bit of singing, a lot of dancing both in kahiko and ‘auana” in honor of his kumu, the late Maiki Aiu Lake.
“If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be on that stage, and consequently neither would my dancers, and so it would be an opportunity to honor her,” Cazimero said.
His halau won the inaugural kane division contest in 1976, and last entered in 2005, when the men won the overall title. For the Ho‘ike, Cazimero is bringing about 50 halau members, including seven who have become recognized as kumu hula themselves.
“Hoi‘ke is very much an honor,” the celebrated singer-kumu said. “It’s exciting working on it now and getting prepared, being able to show what we’re going to do on that Wednesday night. It’s a lot of work and we’re not even entering the damn competition. It’s a different kind of intensity and stress but it’s also miraculous in its rediscovery.”
Johnny Lum Ho, kumu hula of Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua, was there from the start. He says he’s the only surviving kumu of the halau that were present at the start of the hula competition in 1971 (The festival dates its founding from when it was conceived in 1963, with the first festival kicking off in 1964).
“Uncle George (Na‘ope) was the one who told me to go enter,” Lum Ho said. “I told him, ‘I don’t know how for chant.’ He said, ‘I’ll chant for you,’ so he did.” He recalls that competition, at what was then the Hilo Civic Auditorium, as “pleasant” with the judging criteria a lot less strict than how it is today.
Aloha Dalire was there, too, as a dancer for her mother’s halau, Keolalaulani Halau ‘Olapa O Laka. As the first Miss Aloha Hula in 1971, she will perform a solo hula at the Ho‘ike and will be joined by all the other Miss Hulas. Together, they’ll dance to a mele written by Na‘ope — “Ka Nani A‘o Ka‘u.”
“Quite a few” of the past honorees have responded, said Dalire, who is in charge of getting the winners together. “We’re hoping to get all 43 on stage, but that’s really slim. But we’re trying. We’re not giving up until the very end.”
“I don’t think any of us (in 1971) ever thought Merrie Monarch would last this long,” Dalire said. “This is a legacy. I firmly believe it is, and it’s just so amazing.”
The Ho‘ike is just one night of a weeklong celebration of the Merrie Monarch Festival; other events that week include a Kalakaua beard contest, a coronation pageant and ball, a barbershop quartet, free hula exhibitions, the Royal Parade, craft fairs, and of course, the three nights of televised competition.
Email Peter Sur at email@example.com.