Just Saying: Move Merrie Monarch

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - April 07, 2010
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One sure way for me to be declared persona non grata in Hilo would be to suggest moving the Merrie Monarch hula festival from the too small, uncomfortable seating Edith Kanakaole Tennis Stadium to Blaisdell Arena on Oahu.

I’ve been inclined that way because I’m always embarrassed to see those Japanese visitors sharing festival tickets, being seated for one halau presentation and then having to pass the ticket to the next person on the bus.

There’s also the great expense for the majority of halau from Oahu.

But I’ve found no support among kumu hula for such a move. The Big Island is the spiritual and cultural center of hula because of the association with Pele and our volcanoes.

The bad fallout would be the devastation to Hilo businesses those April weekends, the B&Bs and the usually much-underused Hilo hotels.

Karl Veto Baker and Michael Casupang of Halau I Ka Wekiu say they spend $15,000 yearly on Merrie Monarch but that the Big Island is the cultural home and it should stay that way.

Snowbird Bento’s halau budgets $4,500 for food, $7,200 for air, $3,750 for vans, $10,250 for lodging for dancers and musicians, $13,750 for costumes and $5,500 for lei - a grand total of more than $52,000.

She says: “Even with all the fundraisers and the work that it takes to get to Merrie Monarch, there is something about being on that plane as it hugs the Hamakua coast inbound for Hilo. It works like a mental light switch. Time to focus, engage and soak up all the hula and beauty that will be witnessed before the end of the week.”

That fairly sums up everything I got back from those who answered my e-mail query.

So I guess Hilo and Edith Kanakaole Stadium it is, unless associate director Luana Kawelu deviates from the wishes of her late mother and MM co-founder Dottie Thompson, who died just before this year’s festival.

I’ll be there again this year and making that 30-mile nightly round-trip to Akiko’s Wailea Buddhist B&B.

My wife will surely be spending, as always, at Michele Zane-Faridi’s Hana Hou store. I’ll have my Cafe Pesto mai tai and sandwiches, and pay for air, rental car and then a night ‘s stay and dinner by the fireplace at Kilauea Lodge. Not Snowbird Bento’s $52,000, but a budget-denter, to be sure - and worth every cent.

And besides, I’ve come to love Hilo.

three star

Lawmakers are talking about moped regulation. I’d go for safety checks and $15 registry stickers every year.

I’d handle the rest with education and better cop enforcement. Riders should wear helmets. They should buy higher-riding models - like my Oliver City - so they can better be seen in traffic. Those low-slung, two-person touristic thingies you see about town are practically asking to be run over.

Cops should get tough on riders weaving through traffic, doing wheelies, riding on sidewalks and riding illegally tandem.

Give it a couple of years and see where we are.


three star

Look, our commuter train can’t run through the airport, as it does in Atlanta. It won’t go to Waikiki. So a tourist would schlep baggage to the Lagoon Drive train station, then schlep it from Ala Moana Center to a Waikiki hotel? Maybe rethink that Salt Lake route where the people are?

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