Molokai at Merrie Monarch

Courtesy of Kanoe Davis

The 61st Merrie Monarch Festival kicked off on March 31 in Hilo. A hui of Molokai small businesses made the trip over to join in on the celebration of Hawaiian arts. Supported by a $30,000 grant from the Maui County Office of Economic Development, Ho’aka Mana and the second cohort of the Pulauhala small business accelerator program were some of the Molokai businesses who set up shop at the festival. This group included Ishay Kaholoaa of Kahului Designs and Taste of Molokai, Mokihana Paleka of Po’o Hala, Karlie Rose Kalama of Little Learning Keiki, Aulani Herrod of Pailolo Designs, Keoni Perkins of KP Artwork, Courtney Galam of Da Greenthumb, Kauluna’e Hamakua of Kaulu Farms, and Kanoe Davis of PoMahina Designs.

Davis, who hosts the Pulauhala program, explained that the size and scale of Merrie Monarch, which is the biggest cultural event in the state, “can be intimidating so many ohana don’t take the chance. The cost of flying, shipping, car and hotel, it can be overwhelming. So, the more and more we can break that barrier and acknowledge that we have value, it inspires other Molokai people to aspire.”

For Davis, bringing emerging Molokai businesses to the weeklong event allows for a larger sense of community to flourish.

Photo by Bruce Omori

“Hawaii in general has a beautiful aloha for Molokai. Having our people at Merrie Monarch means to malama Molokai, to malama the hard work and the resourcefulness of our people,” she added.

While no hula halau from Molokai made the trip, Caly Ann Kamoʻiwahineokaimana Ragonton Domingo, whose parents are from Molokai, performed in the Miss Aloha Hula, where she earned fifth place. Domingo danced to the mele Laʻieikawai E Kuʻu Beauty, which she said reminded her of her “favorite love story” – that of her parents growing up on Molokai.


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