Hawaii Merrie Monarch Fest celebrates hula heritage By Shane Nelson / April 25, 2011 Share 1 -- Hawaii’s premier hula celebration, the 48th annual Merrie Monarch Festival, kicked off a packed, weeklong schedule of events in Hilo on the Big Island April 24.The event is dedicated to King David Kalakaua, the Hawaiian “Merrie Monarch” best remembered for his passionate efforts to restore his people’s culture and traditions during the late 1800s. According to organizers, the festival’s main purpose today is the “perpetuation, preservation and promotion of the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture through education.” This year’s schedule includes a native Hawaiian art exhibition and arts and crafts fair beginning April 27 at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo.Free hula performances and entertainment run throughout the week with midday shows at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and Naniloa Volcanoes Resort. Visitors can also take in a free evening of hula and music at the Hoike performance held at 6 p.m. April 27 at the Edith Kanakaole Stadium. The Miss Aloha Hula competition takes place on April 27, and the group kahiko (ancient) and auana (modern) hula events are April 29 and 30, respectively. The festival concludes with a parade through the town of Hilo on April 30 beginning at 10:30 a.m. Visit www.merriemonarch.com.