King David Kalakaua, who reigned in Hawaii for 20 years until 1891, was one of the most popular local rulers, devoted to local culture and traditions like the hula dance. That's why he was called the Merrie Monarch. He started a campaign to revive local customs that were suppressed by Christian missionaries. A festival to honor the memory of the king is held every April in Hilo. It's marked by famous hula competitions that bring together dancers from all over the world.
The 7-day festival features many cultural events: an exhibit, a crafts fair, a parade, and a three-day hula competition that is known worldwide. The first 4 days of the Merrie Monarch Festival consist of non–competitive events. These include free concerts and performances by halau (dancers) as well as an arts and crafts fair. The most popular non–competitive event is the Merrie Monarch Parade that takes place on Saturday morning featuring dozens of floats, dancers and marching bands.
Hula competition is the culmination of the festival which usually occurs on its fifth day at the Edith Kanakaʻole Multipurpose Stadium in Hoʻolulu Park. Hula dancers perform both individually and in groups, with seven-minute intervals. A special competition showcases individual female dancers that compete for the title of Miss Aloha Hula. They dance in a modern style(hula ʻauana) and traditional (hula kahiko). The first winner of this competition in 1971 was Aloha Dalire, a legendary kumu hula, and hula dancer. Group hula kahiko competition features the male and the female division. The last day is marked by a competition of group hula ʻauana - modern style hula.