The Merrie Monarch Festival is always one of the most anticipated days of the year!

The broadcast talent gets to sit with directors & producers and go thru script readings, pronunciations and walk-thous of the 4 nights of broadcast.  We will do this several weeks ahead of time to help mentally prepare us for the big nights; but it also helps put us at ease so walking in, itʻs a refresher course on where we will be mentally for the competition!

Arrival for me this year was VERY different; I had to get the body clock adjusted 12 hours.  Instead of waking up at 2:30/3:00 for Hawaii News Now-Sunrise; I had to get my body up and going at 2:30pm for a 3:30pm call time.

In the past I sat with Dr. Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele in the MMF Broadcast area; it can be a little intimidating – and it has nothing to do with Aunty Pua and how she is with you.  She is the most wonderful, caring, intelligent individual you could work with.  HOWEVER, knowing that you are sitting with one of the most brilliant minds in our Hawaiian culture, language and HULA, that in itself can be a little unsettling.  If you are not makakau, sheʻll know. 😉

It was wonderful to sit next to her the last couple of years working MMFestival.  HOWEVER – weʻve known for a couple of years that she would eventually leave the desk.  She decided that this would be the year.  I was tickled though when she came for the interview during intermission; she was shining!  She had this glow about her as she came up and gave me a wonderful hug and asked how I was and how family was.  I told her we were all fine, then I told her someone had texted me a picture of her in the audience; she was beaming with a huge smile.  I asked her about it; she said she was “feeling wonderful; she could critique everyone and enjoy, or compliment everyone and enjoy!!”  I immediately understood.  She was in the middle of the energy, she could sit and enjoy the presentations, especially because she understood the presentations, the history and the many layers of kaona and more.  I was so happy for her.  She was happy to greet everyone and happy to be on her merry way.  She was a beacon of light during her short visit during intermission.

Must tell you about my co-hosts who were wonderful!!  Kumu Hula Cy Bridges knows my family from their time in Hauʻula.  But being the genealogist that he is; it seems he knows a little bit about everyone!  It came from his intense curiosity about stories he heard and people he met growing up.  It was refreshing to see someone who has that curiosity about things and follows it up with that same intensity to studying that which interests him.  His knowledge…Kumu Hula Maelia Carter and I were truly mesmerized by his stories, how he can connect dots of people and places, present and past…he is truly a walking encyclopedia.  One can feel the same intimidation that I felt with Aunty Pua; but both put you at ease rather quickly.  Kumu has not only been a judge at Merrie Monarch, but he brought his halau and competed at Merrie Monarch as well.

Kumu Hula Maelia Lobenstein Carter:  I knew her before she became Kumu of her halau.  I remember being the emcee of hula competitions in Las Vegas; and Aunty Mae Lobenstein bringing her girls which included her granddaughter Maelia.  Maelia would be escorting grandma while she was going thru the aisles in the casino.  Later when Maelia would take over after the passing of her grandmother (and her grandmother passing the halau to Maelia), I would be photographer for her halau at the Merrie Monarch Festival.  We would go out for lunch from time to time and she is one of the most wonderful people I know.  That is as a person 😃  As a Kumu Hula, she also knows her stuff.  Plus she has the perspective of being a dancer, former Miss Aloha Hula and a Kumu Hula at the Merrie Monarch Festival.

I am both amazed at my co-hosts; they handled broadcast extremely well, but that is because they are incredibly well versed in their hula kuleana and ʻike.

Wednesday – Backstage at the Merrie Monarch; set the stage for the next 3 nights with back stories and perspectives; Thursday night is Miss Aloha Hula night and congratulations to our new Miss Aloha Hula Kaʻiulani Carr!  Friday was Kahiko night and Saturday ʻAuana night.

Congratulations not only to the winners, but every single hula dancer that stepped onto that stage.  Congratulations to the halau kokua that make it possible for Kumu and dancers to do their best.  Congrats to all of the families of all of the halau for their continuous support.  Not only of the halau and dancers, but for their support of our hawaiian culture, music, language AND hula.

My personal take on the MMF:  This was the best experience yet for me.  Tried my best to be ready in case anything happened and we would have to cover in case of power outage, rainstorm, halau needing extra time, musicians needing extra time, videos not being able to roll, co-hosts needing help….and NONE of those things happened!  (Iʻm also happy that for the most part, my body behaved.  Still in recovery and for part of the broadcast I was a little uncomfortable, but that was me managing my body and digestive clocks!  agh!)

I tell everyone that my work with Hawaii News Now-Sunrise, Iʻm working with an extraordinarily talented pool of people that want nothing else but to put their best work forward and have fun doing it.  That is what my daily life is like, and I love it!   Working on the set of the Merrie Monarch Festival is just like that, but in a LIVE event that is going on for long hours over 4 days.  Itʻs like two UH Football game broadcasts, but in the same day, on multiple days…itʻs a LONG broadcast week.

It is one of the annual events that I am most proud to be a part of; and I canʻt wait till next year.

Special Mahalo to the Merrie Monarch Festival, Aunty Luana and our entire broadcast crew; especially our director and producers for putting their trust in my abilities for the #1 event in hula and in Hawaiian culture.

Merrie Monarch Festival Website Merrie Monarch Highlights