Celebrating Culture and Tradition: Merrie Monarch Festivals and Ho’ike night


The entire week of Merrie Monarch festivals in Hilo, Hawaii celebrates everything focused on hula dance, art and other creative performances. Many of the Hilo performance venues are free and open to the public except for the competition night events which are always in demand and sold out a year in advance. For those without tickets to the competitions, the free demonstration performance on Wednesday night called the Ho’ike is one of the must see and free spectacular events offered at the festivals. Since it is free, a line starts early in the day and winds around the performance stadium and snakes through the parking lot. But for those who wait patiently it is a performance not to be missed.

What does Hoi’ke mean?

“Hoi’ke” is a Hawaiian term that translates to “exhibition” or “showcase” in English. It is often used to describe a presentation or display of talent, cultural performances, or artistic expressions. In the context of Hawaiian culture, “hoi’ke” refers to events or gatherings where the community comes together to share their skills, arts, and traditions. It is a celebration of Hawaiian heritage and an opportunity to showcase the richness and diversity of the local culture.


Edith Kanakaole stadium Merrie Monarch Festivals 2016 Ho'ike night

Attending Ho’ike night at Merrie Monarch

The Merrie Monarch Ho’ike night celebrations are a vibrant and captivating showcase of Hawaiian culture and performing arts. Held as part of the annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, Hawaii, the Ho’ike night is an event where hālau hula (hula schools) from across the Hawaiian Islands and beyond come together to present their talents and share their love for hula.

During the Ho’ike night, the stage comes alive with breathtaking hula performances, traditional chants (oli), live music, and elaborate costumes. It is an opportunity for dancers of all ages and skill levels to showcase their dedication, skill, and deep connection to the Hawaiian heritage.

The performances at the Ho’ike night encompass a range of hula styles, from the ancient and sacred hula kahiko to the graceful and expressive hula ‘auana. Each hālau brings their unique interpretation and storytelling through dance, music, and chants, transporting the audience to a world of Hawaiian legends, history, and natural beauty.

The atmosphere during the Ho’ike night is filled with excitement, pride, and reverence for the cultural traditions of Hawaii. It is a time for the community to come together, support the dancers, and honor the legacy of hula as a vital part of Hawaiian identity.

Beyond the captivating performances, the Ho’ike night also offers an opportunity to appreciate Hawaiian crafts, arts, and cuisine. Local artisans often showcase their creations, allowing visitors to explore and purchase unique handmade items that reflect the beauty and craftsmanship of the Hawaiian culture.

Attending the Merrie Monarch Ho’ike night is an unforgettable experience that allows you to witness the passion, skill, and artistry of hula dancers as they bring the stories and traditions of Hawaii to life. It is a celebration of cultural heritage, fostering a deeper appreciation for the richness and beauty of Hawaiian traditions.



Ho’ike night begins with the royal court arrival

The Royal Court at the Merrie Monarch Festival represents a symbolic and ceremonial aspect of Hawaiian culture and tradition. It is a portrayal of the Hawaiian monarchy and serves as a tribute to the historical legacy of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The Royal Court consists of a King, Queen, and other members who are selected to embody the grace, dignity, and aloha spirit associated with Hawaiian royalty. These individuals are chosen based on their knowledge of Hawaiian history, culture, and protocol, as well as their commitment to perpetuating the traditions of the Hawaiian people.

During the Merrie Monarch Festival, the Royal Court participates in various ceremonial events, including the opening ceremony, the Royal Parade, and the closing ceremony. They are adorned in beautiful and authentic Hawaiian regalia, reflecting the grandeur and richness of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Royal court arrival at Merrie Monarch Festivals 2016 Ho'ike night


Dance performance demonstrations at Merrie Monarch’s Ho’ike night celebrations

Typically, the dance performance celebrates hula but also special performances from traditional dance around the world and this Ho’ike event included quite a variety including: a traditional hula called Kahiko, a dance troup from Taiwan performing their colorful tribal dance, a Tahitian performance group from California, and last an amazing performance of traditional dance from New Zealand.

Every year, there is a variety of different performances of tribal and ethnic dances that are invited to perform at Merrie Monarch and captivate the audience with unique and colorful dances from these countries.

Taiwanese tribal performance at Ho’ike night

Taiwanese tribal performance at Merrie Monarch Festivals 2016 Ho'ike night


Hawaiian traditional Kahiko performance at Ho’ike night

Witnessing traditional kahiko dances at the Ho’ike night is an awe-inspiring experience that transports the audience to ancient Hawaii hula performed on the stage and is powerful.

Traditional kahiko dances at the Ho’ike night of the Merrie Monarch Festival are a captivating and sacred display of ancient Hawaiian hula. These dances are deeply rooted in Hawaiian history, legends, and cultural traditions, showcasing the essence of the Hawaiian people and their connection to the land, gods, and ancestors.

Kahiko dances are characterized by their powerful and rhythmic movements, accompanied by traditional chants (oli) and percussive instruments like the pahu (drum) and ipu (gourd drum). The dancers, adorned in traditional attire, portray stories and themes that depict the legends, rituals, and daily life of ancient Hawaiians.


Hawaiian traditional Kahiko performance at Merrie Monarch Festivals 2016 Ho'ike night





New Zealand Haka performance at Merrie Monarch Festivals 2016 Ho'ike night

Here are some of the highlights that I have put together in video of the performance


More inside tips to watching Ho’ike night or going to Merrie Monarch in Hilo

Here are some inside tips to enhance your experience while watching the Merrie Monarch Ho’ike night performances:

  1. Arrive early: The Ho’ike night performances tend to draw large crowds, so it’s advisable to arrive early to secure a good seat. This will give you a better view of the stage and ensure you don’t miss any of the captivating performances.
  2. Respect the performers: Remember that the Ho’ike night is a significant cultural event, so it’s important to show respect for the performers and the traditions they represent. Refrain from talking loudly, using flash photography, or any disruptive behavior that could distract from the performances.
  3. Immerse yourself in the culture: Take the time to learn about the significance of the dances and the stories they tell. Research beforehand or read the program provided at the event to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural context and symbolism behind each performance. This will enrich your experience and allow you to appreciate the dances on a more profound level.
  4. Listen to the chants: Pay attention to the chants (oli) that accompany the dances. The chants hold deep cultural and historical significance, often providing additional layers of meaning to the performances. Listening to the chants can transport you to ancient times and enhance your understanding of the narratives being portrayed.
  5. Embrace the atmosphere: The Ho’ike night is filled with the spirit of aloha and cultural celebration. Immerse yourself in the lively and festive atmosphere by engaging with fellow attendees, exchanging stories, and appreciating the sense of community. Embrace the joy and excitement of the event and let yourself be carried away by the beauty and power of the performances.
  6. Support local artisans: The Merrie Monarch Festival often includes a marketplace where local artisans showcase their crafts and creations. Take the time to explore these stalls and support the artists by purchasing unique and authentic Hawaiian products. It’s an excellent opportunity to bring home a piece of Hawaiian culture and support the local community.


Conclusion to Ho’ike nights at the Merrie Monarch Festival

Attending the Ho’ike night at the Merrie Monarch Festival is an extraordinary journey into the heart of Hawaiian culture and hula. As you immerse yourself in the captivating performances, rich with history, storytelling, and the essence of the Hawaiian people, you become part of a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations. The power and grace of the dancers, the melodic chants, and the vibrant atmosphere create an experience that is both educational and deeply moving. It is a unique opportunity to witness the beauty and resilience of Hawaiian cultural practices and to gain a profound appreciation for the traditions that continue to thrive in the modern world. Whether you are a first-time attendee or a returning visitor, the Ho’ike night at the Merrie Monarch Festival promises to leave you with unforgettable memories and a profound connection to the spirit of aloha and the legacy of the Hawaiian people.

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Merrie Monarch Festivals 2016 Ho’ike night, hope the video and photos will inspire you to visit Hilo, Hawaii and a Merrie Monarch festival in the future. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

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