Celebrating Hula at the Merrie Monarch Parade in Hilo, Hawaii
Hilo goes wild for hula during the annual Merrie Monarch Festival. On the last day of the week-long hula competition, you feel this exuberance at the huge parade that winds through downtown. Crowds gather early along the sidelines to cheer on the procession, which includes hula groups swaying atop lavishly-decorated floats and choruses of men singing traditional music. Be sure to look for the pa’u horseback riders, who wear elaborate costumes and cover their horses in colorful leis. The riders carry on a tradition begun by 19th century Hawaiian women, who rejected the conventionally modest side saddle favored by arriving missionaries, and instead sat astride in long skirts, which draped over the horses and flew like streamers as they rode by.