In 1963 Hawaiʻi island was struggling economically, stemming from the devastation of recent tsunami and the decline of sugar plantations along the Hāmākua coast. Helene Hale, the County of Hawaiʻi Chairwoman at the time, and George Naʻope established the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival to give the island an economic boost by tapping into the burgeoning tourist industry. It took place in 1964.
Continued by the private Merrie Monarch Festival community organization, the major purpose of the festival is the perpetuation, preservation, and promotion of the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture through education. The festival is considered the world's premier forum for people of all ages to display their skills and knowledge of the art of ancient and modern hula.
The annual presentation of the Merrie Monarch Festival has led to a renaissance of the Hawaiian culture that is being passed on from generation to generation. The week-long festival includes art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, performances, a parade that emphasizes the cultures of Hawaii, and a three-day hula competition that has received worldwide recognition for its historic and cultural significance.
Through the celebration of the Merrie Monarch Festival, thousands of people in Hawaii and throughout the world are learning about the history and culture of Hawaii.
The Merrie Monarch Festival is committed to: 1) Perpetuating the traditional culture of the Hawaiian people; 2) Developing and augmenting a living knowledge of Hawaiian arts and crafts through workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions and performances of the highest quality and authenticity; 3) Reaching those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate; and, 4) Enriching the future lives of all of Hawaii's children.