OHA’s Successful Outreach at the 61st Merrie Monarch Hula Festival

Photo: OHA Trustees at the Merrie Monarch Festival
The OHA Trustees, our ʻohana, and staff felt privileged to join the Merrie Monarch Festival Royal Parade alongside our valued community partner, Kua o Ka Lā Public Charter School. – Photo: Alice Malepeai Silbanuz

The 61st Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in Hilo was a time of great celebration for Hawaiian culture, commerce and community. Amidst the graceful hula, rhythmic chants and vibrant displays of Hawaiian culture, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) orchestrated an on-the-ground and media campaign that resulted in widespread engagement and positive feedback.

From April 3-6, 2024, OHA strategically positioned itself at locations throughout Hilo that allowed for maximum community engagement. At the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, cultural workshops led by knowledgeable practitioners offered attendees a hands-on experience in traditional practices.

Each workshop was met with overwhelming demand, with participants from near and far expressing gratitude for the opportunity to immerse themselves in Hawaiian culture. Whether it was storytelling with Kumu Hula Manaiakalani Kalua, ulana lauhala (weaving) with ʻAha Puhala O Puna, or carving ʻohe kapala with Nalu Andrade of Nā Maka Kahiko, the workshops left attendees with expanded horizons and a deepened appreciation for the richness of Native Hawaiian culture.

Meanwhile, at the Nani Mau Gardens, OHA hosted thought-provoking discussion panels live streamed on OHA’s Facebook account. These panels, skillfully moderated by OHA’s Hawai ʻi Island-based advocates, delved into topics ranging from Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) to ʻĀina Momona & Self-determination, and Kai Moana. With hundreds of views online, these discussions not only reached a wide audience but also sparked meaningful dialogue about pressing issues facing Hawaiian communities today. Visit OHA’s Facebook to view the panels.

Panelists from the OHA Programs gathered together after their talks at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. – Photo: Alice Malepeai Silbanuz

At the Civic Center, OHA’s information table greeted eager craft fair shoppers with reusable bags and provided valuable resources designed to spread awareness about OHA’s initiatives. This approach to outreach ensured that OHA’s message reached festival attendees from all walks of life.

On the Merrie Monarch stage, OHA proudly awarded the Hawaiian Language Award to the new Miss Aloha Hula Ka ʻōnohikaumakaakeawe Kananiokeakua Holokai Lopes. From Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Ha ʻeha ʻe led by her parents, Kumu Hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes, Lopes was provided with a $1,000 prize from OHA for her perfect score in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

A highlight of OHA’s presence was its participation in the Merrie Monarch Royal Parade. For the first time, OHA entered a float into the parade. This was made possible by a wonderful partnership that the organization formed with Kua o Ka Lā Public Charter School who worked with their haumāna to envision the float design to honor mauka to makai connections. OHA trustees rode the stunning float that captivated thousands of spectators lining the parade route, showcasing the beauty and resilience of Hawaiian culture.

Simultaneously, OHA’s media campaign amplified its message to audiences far and wide. From traditional press releases to digital advertising and sponsorships of the tv broadcasts and live streams, OHA helped to make the hula festival accessible to viewers around the world with 950,681 tuning in to the English livestream and more than 92,000 views for the new ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi live stream.

The success of OHA’s outreach efforts at the 61st Merrie Monarch Hula Festival was palpable. Attendees, community members, and media partners alike lauded OHA for its impactful presence and meaningful contributions to the celebration of Hawaiian culture. As the festival drew to a close, OHA’s legacy of engagement and advocacy continued to resonate, leaving a lasting impression on all who had the privilege of experiencing its enriching initiatives.