Merrie Monarch: Faces of the fest

By Elizabeth Kieszkowski / ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com on April 11, 2015


Aloha from Hilo Merrie Monarch blog

NOTE: Link to all the blogs from Merrie Monarch at merriemonarch.staradvertiser.com

To be on Hawaii island during the Merrie Monarch festival is a gift. This is a time when those who live on the island and those who visit are particularly interested in celebrating Hawaiian culture. And those who do so are widely varied. Let me introduce you to a few of them.

Ladies of the arts fair

Maui hula sisters Stephanie DeCosta-Franco, left, Carol Nigro and Gloria Roman smile for a photo outside the Merrie Monarch Invitational Arts Fair.

Stephanie DeCosta-Franco, Carol Nigro and Gloria Roman dance hula together on Maui. The women traveled to Merrie Monarch as a group, visiting the festival offices to pick up T-shirts and bags, and roaming the arts fair, where Nigro and Roman bought colorful hairpieces. When I met them, DeCosta-Franco wore an enormous, fresh hibiscus flower in her hair.

Girls-MM

Jade Thomas, 19, and Jasey Frasco, 18, both of Hilo, were at the Merrie Monarch to watch the hula kahiko on Friday, April 10, 2015.

University of Hawaii-Hilo students Jade Thomas and Jasey Frasco, who have both danced hula themselves, came to the Edith Kanakaole Stadium to watch the kahiko dancers on Friday during the Merrie Monarch festival.

Frasco said she was there especially to see the kane, male dancers of Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La — kumu Kaleo Trinidad’s halau from Honolulu.

Thomas, who danced who from the age of 5 until she was 18, said she would return to the practice. “I just want to give it my all,” she said, as her kumu hula advises.

Georgie Fong, a naturopathic doctor, runs a pop-up stand selling Big Island chocolate and Kona coffee during Merrie Monarch.

Georgie Fong, a naturopathic doctor, runs a pop-up stand selling Big Island chocolate and Kona coffee during Merrie Monarch.

Georgie Fong, a naturopath, has a particular interest in herbal medicine and healing. During Merrie Monarch this year, she set up a pop-up stand at the Hilo Farmer’s Market food court, selling dark chocolate from cacao grown in Hawaii, lilikoi jam and Kona coffee. These foods, she said, also had health-giving qualities.

I can vouch for the chocolate, which comes in varieties incorporating ginger, coffee nubs or macadamia nuts. It is definitely invigorating!

Hula sisters from Mexico. Rosa Elena Lopez, left, is a kumu hula. (On Facebook: Rosalani Kapahula Lokelani)

Hula sisters from Mexico. Rosa Elena Lopez, left, is a kumu hula. (On Facebook: Rosalani Kapahula Lokelani)

Rosa Elena Lopez, kumu hula of a halau from Mexico, visited Merrie Monarch to watch the competition. She said she hoped to be able to dance upon the festival stage, to feel it under her feet.

A new feature at Merrie Monarch this year: A portrait of Aunty Dottie ThompsonCHECK NAMECHECKCHECK, who presided over the festival for XXXXX years, hangs below the ceremonial image of King David Kalakaua, the "Merrie Monarch," who encouraged and celebrated Hawaiian hula.

A portrait of Aunty Dottie Thompson, who presided over the festival for decades, hangs below the ceremonial image of King David Kalakaua, the “Merrie Monarch,” who encouraged and celebrated Hawaiian hula.

A new feature at Merrie Monarch this year: Lei-draped portraits of Dottie Thompson and Uncle George Naope, founders of the Merrie Monarch Festival. Thompson, who was reknowned for her steely determination, died at age 88 in 2010. Naope died in 2009, at age 81.

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Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com or follow her on Twitter.