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Merrie Monarch parade returns Saturday

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Plenty of the longtime participants in the annual Merrie Monarch Festival Parade are set to return this year, and there are a few additions and changes to keep things interesting.

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Plenty of the longtime participants in the annual Merrie Monarch Festival Parade are set to return this year, and there are a few additions and changes to keep things interesting.

Missy Kaleohano, who has organized the parade the past several years, said that the 2016 event, set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, will be a little bit smaller than in years past, but no less exciting.

“Traditionally, whenever Easter falls early, we have slightly less participants than in other years, but the parade has grown so much since the 50th anniversary, so we’re expecting a good parade,” she said.

Depending on where people in the crowd set up to view the 53rd annual parade, the whole thing will take about an hour to pass by, she said. The parade will follow its usual route along Pauahi Street, Kilauea Avenue, Keawe Street, Waianuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue.

Big participants such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart and others will have floats, costumes and more that will give the eyes plenty to feast upon.

One participant that is likely to be a hit with the crowds will be Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, along with the 100th anniversary of the National Park System.

“They’ll be joined by a lot of their partners, like the Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Hawaii Pacific Parks Association. Their float will represent the three defining characteristics of the park, including geology, and natural and native beauty,” Kaleohano said.

One definite change this year that people will likely notice is an emphasis on refraining from using ohia trees, due to efforts to prevent the spread of the fungus that causes rapid ohia death.

“It will be interesting to see the creativity, with people finding alternatives,” she said.

In addition to the visual, parade attendees will also hear plenty of fantastic music this year, thanks to a lucky coincidence that resulted in four mainland marching bands joining the usual contingent of Big Island bands and the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, Kaleohano said.

“This year is the year of the bands,” she said. “I don’t know that it’s ever happened before that we’ll have four visiting bands participating from the mainland. Every two years or so we’ll have one or maybe two visiting bands. So this in and of itself will be exciting.”

High school bands and others which have regularly participated will also be on hand, providing a total of 10 confirmed marching bands.

Serving as the grand marshal this year will be Rodney Acia, who was born in Hilo and raised in Puueo. A U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, he and his wife, Margaret, have five children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His grandfather was one of the most respected ukulele and guitar builders in Hawaii and passed his knowledge on to him.

Acia is a former paniolo, worked in the tourism industry, and a golf pro. Currently, he serves as the golf professional at Hilo Municipal Golf Course, where he has worked since 1989.

While he can’t dance the hula, Acia says he loves everything Hawaiian.

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“Being Hawaiian is not something to just talk about,” he said. “You have to have it in your soul, and you need to feel it in your heart.”

Nancy Cabral, owner of Coldwell Banker Day-Lum Properties and Day-Lum Rentals &Management, as well as a member of the Hawaii Horse Owners Association, will serve as this year’s Pa‘u Queen.

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