Merrie Monarch Fest tweaks ticket policies

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If you’re in the market for Hilo’s hottest ticket — seats at the Merrie Monarch Festival’s hula competition — you’ll need to get your request in earlier this year, and it will cost just a bit more.

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If you’re in the market for Hilo’s hottest ticket — seats at the Merrie Monarch Festival’s hula competition — you’ll need to get your request in earlier this year, and it will cost just a bit more.

According to Luana Kawelu, the festival’s president and executive director, ticket requests still must be mailed in, postmarked Dec. 1 or later. That’s a break from the past, when the office only accepted ticket requests postmarked Dec. 26 or later.

Requests postmarked earlier than Dec. 1 will not be accepted and will be returned to the sender. In years when Dec. 1 is on a Sunday, ticket requests must be postmarked Dec. 2 or later, or the requests will be returned unfulfilled. This year, Dec. 1 is a Tuesday.

“The reason I did that is (next) year’s festival starts early,” Kawelu said Wednesday. “This will be the date, though, from now on, even if the festival comes at a later date. Because (next) year’s festival starts on March 27, if we stuck to the Dec. 26 date, by the time the tickets go out, it would be the end of January, the first week of February.”

Kawelu said that would be too late for many, especially those coming from other countries, to book their flights and accommodations for the festival.

The three nights of hula competition next year are Thursday, March 31, for Miss Aloha Hula; Friday, April 1, for Group Hula Kahiko (ancient hula); and Saturday, April 2, for Group Hula ‘Auana (modern hula).

Ticket prices for reserved seating are $35 or $40 for three nights, and $30 for Friday and Saturday night.

“The new ticket prices are based on seating section requested,” Kawelu said. “People can go to our website and look to see where they want to sit and then look for the price that corresponds to that section.

“The prices have gone up $10 over the three nights, so that’s about $3.33 a night.”

General admission seating is $20 for a two-night Friday and Saturday pass, while stand-alone tickets to Thursday night’s Miss Aloha Hula competition still are $5 each.

There’s also the Wednesday night Ho‘ike on March 30, a free, noncompetition exhibition featuring hula and other cultural dances from across the Pacific Basin, which is unaffected by the ticket changes and not included in ticket packages. Admission is first come, first served for Ho‘ike, and the line forms early in the morning.

At $40, the most expensive admission for three nights of spectacular dance accompanied by Hawaii’s best and most popular musicians, who play live, still is a bargain in today’s entertainment marketplace.

The Edith Kanaka‘ole Multipurpose Stadium, where the so-called “Super Bowl of hula” is hosted, seats about 4,200, with roughly half the tickets going to participating halau. The remaining tickets are sold to the public, and sell out quickly.

According to a written statement from the festival, the reason for the price hike is to allow organizers to archive the event’s history.

“I haven’t raised the price of tickets in years and years, but I want to put money aside to archive our documents and history,” Kawelu said. “It costs money to have this archived. I don’t want to take production moneys away from the festival, so this is a way, by raising it $3-and-some-odd cents per night, I can put aside some money for the archives.”

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For ticket request forms and more information, visit the Merrie Monarch Festival’s website at www.merriemonarch.com.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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