Last chance to experience the official Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts & Crafts Fair : Big Island Now

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Today is the last to experience the official Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts & Crafts Fair, which showcases and supports more than 150 of Hawai‘i’s best artisans and creators.

A vendor at the official Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts & Crafts Fair interacts and speaks with customers on April 14, 2023 at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo on the Big Island. The fair’s last day is April 15. (Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and Butler Buildings at the Ho‘olulu Complex in Hilo on the Big Island.

Admission is free and there’s still plenty to check out, including ono grindz, live entertainment and choke fun for keiki to kūpuna.

On Friday, Hawaiian music softly serenaded the masses, accompanying keiki as they showed off their hula skills on stage. Many in the crowd recorded the performances with their cell phones.

Elsewhere, a mom texted with baby in tow while Grandpa offered the tiny tyke a tasty tidbit of what looked like something purple and sweet.

Keiki put on a sort of fashion show for their parents and anyone willing to watch their shenanigans at one vendor area, trying on lauhala (weaved hala leaves) hats and striking a pose.


People walked to and fro, stopping to peruse a vendor’s offerings or say hello to friends or family, which often resulted in smiles, hugs, a few kisses on the cheek and sometimes laughter that matched the merry mood.

Yes, there were times the aisles between booths were so tight you couldn’t move for a second or two. But it wasn’t a big deal, providing an opportunity to strike up a conversation with the others waiting with you or the vendors nearby.

Speaking of vendors and artists, the available goods and wares at the fair is a treasure trove. Jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces and earrings; watches with lauhala bands; some of the finest Hawaiian featherwork; glasswork featuring hula; lei of just about any kind, including real and artificial flowers; koa hair picks and bookmarks; hula instruments such as ipu and pahu; aloha wear; lapel pins; and coffee mugs represent a minute mix of what is available.

The vendors included Kalim Smith, who is at the fair to demonstrate how he makes ipu heke (double-gourd drums used in hula) and to sell a limited number.

Additional photos from early Friday afternoon during the official Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts & Crafts Fair. (Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)


You could even grab a “New Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary” at the Native Books booth if you wanted to brush up on your ‘ōlelo Hawai’i or begin a journey to learn the native language of the islands. And don’t forget to pick up your official Merrie Monarch merchandise.

If your belly was telling you it was time for some eats, you didn’t have to look far to satiate your cravings. Food trucks and vendors provided a full menu of Hawai‘i favorites, including: kalua pig, with or without cabbage; nachos, which you can also get with kalua pig on top; laulau; lomi salmon; poi; and Spam musubi.

Once you’ve got the savory side of life situated, don’t dis dessert. Keiki and adults alike were seen Friday enjoying frozen goodies and other snacks to satisfy their sweet tooths.

Walking through the outside vendor area toward the Butler Building just east and behind the auditorium, a smell that can only be described as mouthwateringly alluring, wafted through the air. It was so enticing that you immediately had to seek out the source.

The culprit was the Mini Orbits stand just outside the building. It’s slogan: “Made in sight for your delight.” The delicious dainty donuts definitely deliver, sending taste buds into outer space with their succulent, sugary, lightly fried golden goodness.


Broke da mouth doesn’t even begin to describe how tasty the donuts were. It felt like the universe saying, “Here you go. Have a treat.”

Oh, and the all-beef hot dog wrapped in basically a waffle made from the same batter as the Mini Orbits — and also came on a sick — deserves a chef’s kiss. It even had an optional special syrupy sauce, which was created by the stand’s owner who also developed the batter 17 years ago.

The Merrie Monarch Festival experience is not complete without a trip to the Merrie Monarch Hawaiian Arts & Crafts Fair. Take part in the tradition — or start a new one — celebrating everything that is Hawaiian.

Pro tip: Be sure to have some cash with you just in case a vendor doesn’t take plastic or the person with the fancy app on their phone that can take card payment happens to be indisposed at the time.

The 60th annual Merrie Monarch Festival concludes tonight with group hula ‘auana competition and group awards to follow.

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